West Hempstead Jewish Community Center elects first woman president

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Growing up, she recalled, she was not active in her local Jewish community center, spending little time at the Marathon Jewish Center in Little Neck, Queens. “It didn’t become a big part of my life until after I was married,” she said. “At first we weren’t as involved, but when you have children it’s different. You want your kids to see that you’re involved in your religion; we wanted them to see us involved in our synagogue, and not just for a couple of years. We wanted to make a wholehearted commitment.”

One challenge Gabel wants to tackle in her new role, she said, is to engage members of the West Hempstead community. And with the diligence and strong camaraderie among the staff at the community center, she said she believes that goal can be reached.

“We are a very close-knit group,” she said. “We care about each other and look out for each other. Most people can see that pretty quickly.” She added that the center has an open-door policy for residents throughout the community, and encourages anyone to join. “We may be close-knit, but we are also very welcoming,” she said, “and would welcome anybody new.”

Gabel, who will serve a two-year term, said she remains excited and humbled by her election. “I like the idea that I can make a difference,” she said. “We have a wonderful board with lots of ideas. I like that we’re going to work together to get things done.”

She even has a list of goals in mind. “I would like to get more of the members involved in our many programs,” she said. “We have the Sisterhood and Men’s Club programs, educational programs. We also have programs that are open to the whole community — seminars about learning Jewish prayer, current events — and I would love to see more people involved.

“I just want us to grow, to strengthen and increase,” she added, “and go full-force into the 21st century.”

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