Multi-faith York family finds a home at York JCC

Jewish culture was vital in Rachel Kohr’s upbringing. When she started a family of her own, she found a home in the York JCC that welcomed her Jewish children, as well as her Christian husband.

Story paid for by: York JCC
Written by: Anthony Machcinski
Rachel Kohr got involved in the York Jewish Community Center in 2008, and since then, the JCC became a second home for her family. (Video by Caleb Robertson/Our York Media)

Built into the wall of the York Jewish Community Center’s entrance is a 20-foot by 9-foot sculpture called “The Six Million” that represents a crowd of Jewish men, women and children killed during the Holocaust.

The first time Rachel Kohr saw the sculpture in 2008, she knew she’d found the right place for her family. This was not only because of her strong Jewish tradition but also because of her relatives who perished during the Holocaust.

“It’s a feeling that you can’t find anywhere else,” says Kohr, who lives in Springettsbury Township. “For me, it means something to even be there, to still be Jewish, to still be practicing, and to be proud among all the hatred.”

When Rachel Kohr and her husband, Greg, had their first child in 2008, she wanted him to grow up Jewish and to find a place where other people understood the culture. (Photo by Caleb Robertson/Our York Media)

Discovering History

Kohr doesn’t remember when she first learned of her family’s plight during the Holocaust, just that it was there all along.

The Nazis took her great aunt Sura and Sura’s two sons from the Warsaw store the family owned in 1941. After her capture, Sura died at the Treblinka prison camp.

Kohr continues her grandmother’s search of Sura’s two sons, who were kids when their mother was taken.

I wanted my children to have a Jewish life outside of Friday nights. I wanted them to have a bit more education and to have other people who understand them. It’s hard when you’re the only one without a Christmas tree.

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Rachel Kohr York JCC member

Since the Holocaust, Kohr’s Jewish ancestry remained an important part of her family’s life. When her mother, Ruth, married her father, Ray McManus, the couple decided to remove the ‘Mc” from the McManus name.

“She always said it was very important that her children were raised Jewish because the line wasn’t going to end with her,” Kohr says. “I grew up with a big Jewish identity, so Judaism wasn’t going to die with me either.”

When Kohr and her husband, Greg, had their first child in 2008, she wanted him to grow up Jewish and to find a place where other people understood the culture.

“I wanted my children to have a Jewish life outside of Friday nights,” Kohr says referring to Shabbat. “I wanted them to have a bit more education and to have other people who understand them. It’s hard when you’re the only one without a Christmas tree.”

On Sundays, Rachel Kohr teaches Hebrew at Temple Beth Israel while her husband, Greg, plays basketball next door at the York JCC. (Photo by Caleb Robertson/Our York Media)
On Sundays, Rachel Kohr teaches Hebrew at Temple Beth Israel while her husband, Greg, plays basketball next door at the York JCC. (Photo by Caleb Robertson/Our York Media)
On Sundays, Rachel Kohr teaches Hebrew at Temple Beth Israel while her husband, Greg, plays basketball next door at the York JCC. (Photo by Caleb Robertson/Our York Media)
On Sundays, Rachel Kohr teaches Hebrew at Temple Beth Israel while her husband, Greg, plays basketball next door at the York JCC. (Photos by Caleb Robertson/Our York Media)

Everyone is welcome

Kohr got involved in the York Jewish Community Center in 2008, and since then, the JCC became a second home for her family.

She sees the center as a place where children understand that Fridays are for worship and where parents can share insight on how to talk to a school when picture day is scheduled on Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year and one of the holiest days for Jews.

“When we talk about Jewish culture and having that be a staple here, it goes beyond the programs we offer,” says Rachel Singer, the York JCC’s culture and arts director. “Our culture is steeped in Jewish values, which happen to be the same humanitarian values relatable across different ethnicities like volunteerism and doing good deeds.”

The JCC welcomes all cultures, not just the Jewish faith. Rachel Kohr's husband Greg, a Christian, plays basketball and works out at the York JCC’s gym. (Photo by Caleb Robertson/Our York Media)

But the JCC welcomes all cultures, not just the Jewish faith. Greg, a Christian, plays basketball and goes to the JCC’s gym on Sundays while Kohr teaches Hebrew and Judaica at the nearby temple.

“We’re a very unique JCC because the majority of our membership is not Jewish,” Singer says. “Focusing on the Jewish values has really resonated here. It’s why the York community has embraced the JCC.”

The center runs events throughout the year like the Jewish Food Festival, film programs and an educational speaker series, and guests don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the events, Singer says.

“There are people in York who think this is a Jewish-only place, but it’s so not,” Kohr says. “Everyone is welcome here.”

Kohr sees that constant welcoming reminder any time she walks past the sculpture in the JCC’s lobby. The sculpture’s message is repairing the world – abolishing hatred and intolerance with actions.

“You repair the world by doing small things like picking up trash and being kind to people,” she says. “To have that reminder as soon as you walk in immediately brings a sense of pride to me.”

Hannah and Greg Kohr take a break at the York JCC's new cafe. (Photo by Caleb Robertson/Our York Media)

Story paid for by York JCC

yorkjcc.org
717-843-0918
2000 Hollywood Drive York, PA 17403

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