Worcester JCC Bod Berman health physical education director 41 years old



WORCESTER – Director of Health and Physical Education Bob Berman has impacted the lives of thousands of people of all ages during his 41 years at the Greater Worcester Jewish Community Center.

Berman, 64, is the longest-serving JCC employee but said he enjoys his job too much to consider retiring anytime soon.

“I’m going to work as long as I can and I still feel the same energy and I feel like I can make a difference,” he said.

CEO Emily Rosenbaum is delighted.

Last year, the pandemic forced the JCC to cancel a celebration of Berman’s 40th birthday, but the center honored him in its publicity book. Rosenbaum said Berman hated attention and he also wouldn’t appreciate such a tribute as wearing his name at the gym.

“Even whether or not it bears his name,” she said poolside while taking a break from teaching a preschool swimming class, “in people’s minds when they think at JCC, they think of Bob Berman. It is already synonymous with institution because it embodies our spirit, the spirit of community, and so humbly. It is to give.

Ron Rosenstock, chairman of the JCC board of directors, credited Berman and his ability to adjust programs to help the center survive during the pandemic.

“We didn’t give up,” Rosenstock said. “We’re really optimistic about the future and we’re really grateful to have Bob with us for all these years. There is no man more devoted than Bob Berman.

Berman has been around for so long that he has coached and mentored the children of some of the children he coached many years ago. He was proud to tell a story about Tyler Dion, who played JCC basketball at the age of 5 and went on to play at Wachusett Regional and Worcester State University. As a senior at Worcester State last year, Dion returned to the JCC for an internship where he safely worked with 100 young people during the pandemic.

Berman oversees health, fitness, sports and recreation for preschoolers up to the center’s oldest member, Irving White, 97. He oversees Fitness Center Wellness Director Elaine Drawbridge and Watersports Director Kelly Sampson, two longtime employees he admires and respects.

“I couldn’t be here for 41 years,” he said, “without having the great team that I work with.”

Berman shares a small office with Drawbridge. Above his desk is a window overlooking the gym. Tucked away in the corner of the window is an autographed baseball card from Worcester native Rich Gedman, former Red Sox wide receiver and current WooSox batting coach who ran baseball camps at the JCC with Berman for 26 years.

There’s also a 2004 drawing that Berman’s son Matt made of himself dipping a basketball.

Berman has also held camps at the JCC with former Celtics Rick Fox and David Wesley and held field trips to Bravehearts, Tornadoes, and the WooSox game. He remains friends with Red Sox scout Ray Fagnant, who, as a student at nearby Assumption College, worked for him at the JCC.

Sean McShea, 56, of Holden worked at the JCC for about 20 years and his three children attended preschool and camps, and participated in the centre’s basketball program.

“Bob has been the backbone of the JCC,” said McShea. “He’s stable, kind and disciplined. He has a reservoir of cuteness.

McShea marveled at the patience and enthusiasm Berman showed recently as he led a group of 5-year-olds around the baseball field in the gymnasium.

“I don’t know how he’s doing it,” McShea said. “He runs the camps in the summer. It’s 12 weeks and it would test anyone’s patience, but it always comes back. I seen him here at eight o’clock on Sunday morning teaching these kids how to play baseball. I couldn’t do it.

“I find it to be an easy thing for me,” Berman said. “It’s really special to see the looks on their faces and to understand that you are very special to them. Just seeing them feel a sense of accomplishment makes it special.

Rosenbaum admires the way young people listen to Berman.

“They respect who he is and what he has done and what he is doing,” Rosenbaum said. “He’s great with the kids, but the whole community loves Bob.”

No one at JCC calls him Mr. Berman. He is known as “Coach Bob” or “Bob”, and that suits him as he considers himself a coach and he does his best to include as many young people as possible.

Berman runs scholarships for Friendly House children to attend JCC summer camps.

With funding from Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr., Berman offered practice clinics and parenting programs with former Celtic Bob Bigelow to educate people to let young children play rather than stress. to win.

“It’s a shame that we are sometimes so focused,” said Berman, “on trying to pick elite teams at the age of 8 or 9.”

The JCC is a nonprofit agency with financial constraints, but Berman has always found a way to get things done. For 10 summers, he generated income by renting the JCC overnight to JCC groups in Montreal, New Jersey and New York, in order to provide them with inexpensive accommodation during their visit to Boston.

After working all day, Berman returned to the JCC each night to check in the groups so they could spend the night in their sleeping bags in the auditorium and fitness center, and he arrived early the next day. morning to oversee the breakfast and dispatch the groups on their way to have the center available to members.

Berman never pocketed a dime, but the extra income helped pay for member programs.

Rosenbaum stressed that the JCC is open to people of all faiths and adheres to safety protocols, including wearing masks, while offering discounted subscriptions during the pandemic.

Pickleball and cornhole became popular during the pandemic because it is easier to maintain social distancing. The JCC has also moved some workout and fitness classes outdoors and started offering recorded workout programs on screens attached to exercise bikes so people can work out individually.

Before the pandemic, about 300 young people participated in Berman’s basketball league on Sunday. The league was called off last year but is set to begin this Sunday with 170 children wearing masks.

“It’s a unique place for people,” he said. “They can come here and have everything to meet their physical, social and recreational needs. “

Berman practices what he preaches and trains to keep in shape.

Berman was a basketball captain at Doherty High and made the last sub-varsity team at UMass-Amherst as a first rookie. He also played summer basketball at Crompton Park on the same Maurice the Pants Man team as Dan Trant and Kevin Clark of Clark University and Tony Jeffreys of Springfield College.

Berman majored in sports management at UMass and participated in an independent study project with the Celtics in hopes of eventually working for an NBA team. Sadly, his father, Arthur, died of a heart attack at the age of 56 in August 1980, so Berman decided to stay close to home.

Berman had worked in basketball clinics and summer camps at JCC, and he accepted an internship offer from director of health and physical education Marty Pear in the early 1980s. Shortly thereafter upon his father’s death, Berman was hired as Pear’s assistant.

After Pear left to work in Florida, two more directors were hired and left over the next two and a half years. Berman then convinced the board to hire him despite his inexperience and he’s been there ever since.

“Time kept passing,” he said, “and I was like, ‘Well, you know what? I like what I do. We develop, we grow. This kind of work invades you when it is community work and you feel that you are making a difference in the lives of others.

Berman lives in Worcester with his wife Andrea. They have two sons, Zack, 27, and Matt, 23. Somehow, Berman found time to coach his sons in Jesse Burkett Little League baseball, Worcester Flag Football, and Worcester Youth Soccer.

Berman’s mother, Sylvia, 90, lives next door to the JCC at Eisenberg Assisted Living.

“I see her all the time,” he said.

Contact Bill Doyle at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ BillDoyle15


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