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Plainview Jewish community center welcomes all on Christmas
A t 1 p.m. sharp on Christmas Day, families began filing past a giant menorah at the doors of the Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center to get to the various activities the center had planned for the day.
Inside, some children roamed free -- sweaty and excited as they moved from basketball to climbing to GaGa, an Israeli form of dodgeball -- while others sat with their parents and siblings doing crafts, reading stories or watching movies.
Susan Tregerman, vice president of programming at the Plainview center, said Christmas Day usually brings about 300 people to the center, including members and non-members, families that are Jewish and not Jewish.
"This afternoon is all about families," said Tregerman, who has worked at the center for 33 years. "Christmas Day gives them an opportunity to have the day off work, relax, forget about all the things they have to do and be with their children."
Iris Needleman, 64, sat with two of her granddaughters at a craft table in the center. She came from New Jersey to visit her daughter's family in Plainview, and they all ended up at the center, including two more of Needleman's grandchildren from Mount Laurel, N.Y.
"This is great," she said. "It's a very nice alternative for those of us who don't celebrate the holiday."
Needleman, who is Jewish, said in the past, Christmas has always been a quiet day her family spent together, and they always had lasagna for dinner. She was happy her grandchildren had a more lively option.
"There was really never a choice of what to do," she said. "Everything was always closed. This fills a void."
Evan Savary, 9, of Plainview, whose father is Catholic and mother is Jewish, opened presents on Christmas morning and then headed to the JCC with his father and older brother.
Savary, who plays on the center's GaGa league, said he thought it was a good place to spend Christmas.
"it's boring at home," he said. "There's nothing to do."
His father, Robert Savary, said they've spent past Christmases visiting family elsewhere or at home, where they end up playing video games.
"This year, we decided to go out and do something more constructive," he said.
For the Levine family, of Plainview, Christmas at the center is a tradition.
Barry Levine worked at the craft table with his 4-year-old son Jacob, who was making a "get well" card for his older brother Ben, who was at home sick.
"Christmas means coming to the Y and Chinese food," Barry Levine said.
Wendy Klonsky, marketing director for the center, said for the Jewish community, Christmas Day brings many of the same niceties it brings to the Christian community.
"Christmas is all about families and being together," she said, as she bounced her 8-month-old son Simon on her hip. "We get that same opportunity here."
Above: From left, Caleb Taylor, 3, his mom, Michelle Taylor, and Caleb's cousin Lily Taylor, 6, all from Plainview, spend Christmas Day making crafts at the Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center. (Dec. 25, 2012)