Aaron Rosenfeld, the new executive director of the Cedarhurst-based Marion & Aaron Gural JCC in the Five Towns, was working as a lawyer in 2001, a profession he aspired to since the seventh grade, when he said he became the designated advocate for his schoolmates in debates with teachers over homework or other classroom issues.
Always involved with Jewish activities through his youth growing up in Interlaken, New Jersey (near Asbury Park), Rosenfeld, 51, was a volunteer with the then JCC of Greater Monmouth County in New Jersey, a vice chairman responsible for overseeing the housing of upwards of 1,200 youthful participants in the 2001 summer Maccabi Games, along with roughly 500 local competitors. His parents, Jerry sand Ruth, still live in Interlaken have always been benefactors of the JCC.
“I would leave my law firm every one in a while at lunch time, take a little bit of a longer lunch and go over there [the JCC] and then I called my form and said I don’t think I’ll be coming back today, I’m finishing what I have to do here,” the West Hempstead resident said. “The more I did that, the more I realized that I was much more passionate about what I was doing as a volunteer than the career I had chosen for myself.”
A couple of months later 9/11 occurred and that helped propel the one-time Jewish Day School student, who played baseball, basketball and tennis and grew up in a “warm, welcoming Jewish community,” to become a Jewish communal professional. In December of 2001 he was named the executive director of the Greater Monmouth County JCC (now JCC Jersey Shore). A job he held for 9 and a half years.
Showing a lust for adventure, Rosenfeld and his family, which includes wife Judy, son Daniel, 17, and daughter Linda, 12, left the East Coast and he became the executive director of the JCC of Omaha in Nebraska in July 2011. Judy is from a tight-knit Sephardic-Syrian family in Brooklyn. But luckily the existence of one store swayed the decision.
“She had one question, Rosenfeld said, “‘is there a Trader Joe’s?’” One had just opened where they lived in New Jersey and Judy loved shopping there. “Funny enough, there is a Trader Joe’s like a mile from the JCC.”
After two years, the family returned to the New York area and Rosenfeld took the job as associate executive director of the then Samuel Field YM & YWHA in June 2013. A year later, he was promoted to executive director and then oversaw the merger of the Samuel Y and the Central Queens Y becoming the executive vice president & chief operating officer until taking the Gural JCC job.
“We are looking forward to Aaron’s leadership to take the Gural JCC to even greater heights of success,” Chairman of the Board Craig Spatz and JCC President Steven Bernstein said jointly in a news release.
Rosenfeld said he is meeting with community leaders to understand that the community needs and noted that the Gural JCC has existing unique programs ranging from Holocaust survivor groups to the early childhood center at the Harrison-Kerr Family Campus in Lawrence.
“The more that I can hear from people who are vested in the community, the more I can help steer this organization to meeting those needs and that what we are here for,” he said. “To continue to be relevant and to continue to meet the needs of the community, my goal is continue to be innovative.”