When asked how many adult programs she oversees Susan Lechter, Senior Director of Adult Programs, laughed aloud. It’s not surprising that she doesn’t know the precise number of programs currently operating at the hub of Jewish life known as JCC Manhattan.
Part of the JCC's mission is to create a community that welcomes everyone. Ms. Lechter has been instrumental in designing a broad array of cultural, social, educational, and informative programs to meet the needs of a diverse and multi-faceted constituency.
Born in Montreal, Ms. Lechter's journey is as unusual as it is admirable. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University’s Teachers’ College, she spent a year at The Hebrew University and was a Parliamentary Aide at the Knesset. She later worked as a consultant at UNESCO in Paris. She met her husband Samuel in Paris and lived there for 11 years.
Ms. Lechter is a natural community organizer. While in Paris, she was director of education at Kehilat Gesher–a French Anglophone Jewish Community–and subsequently assisted in the establishment of the OSE “Pause-Café” Center for Holocaust Survivors. Programs at the Center focused on first and second generation survivors, along with transmission to future generations. When anti-Semitism in France reared its head once again, Ms. Lechter and her family, which by then included her young daughter, decided to move to the U.S.
In 2005, she joined the JCC and re-evaluated existing programs and developed new initiatives. She currently supervises the adult communities program areas including 20s + 30s; 40s, 50s + 60s; Engage, Generation R geared to Russian Jews; and the 60+ program for older adults.
“At the outset of my career, I worked primarily with children but quickly segued to older adults,” Ms. Lechter said. “We can learn an immense amount about life from the senior population. We don’t value our elders enough when, in fact, we should treasure them. I believe that we need to change how society perceives older adults, and that may begin by altering how seniors perceive themselves.”
Along with a wide array of stimulating programming for the 60+ community, a new offering this season is a special workshop known as Wise Aging, providing resources and support to help those who are 60+ to live life to the fullest with spirit. Participants explore this stage in a peer group led by trained facilitators and address many issues that are often left unspoken. Another new offering, Artful Aging, guides seniors to tap into their creative wellsprings and fosters fulfillment and aging well. Also popular is SeniorNet, a unique venture whose tag line is: Bringing wisdom to the information age. This national nonprofit has taught millions of older adults to use computers and the Internet, enhancing their lives and enabling them to share their wisdom.
“What has been particularly rewarding for me are the meaningful connections I have with members on a regular basis–whether it be in programs, in the building, or on the street,” said Ms. Lechter. “I have the privilege to help organize a community. It’s gratifying to create a sense of connectedness and belonging.”