Shera Bello

The JCC of Central New Jersey was honored to award the second annual Phyllis Bernstein Kuchner Scholarship winner in May.  The scholarship, open to local community members, was established in honor and memory of longtime JCC member, board member and volunteer Phyllis Bernstein Kuchner (z”l) by her husband Bob Kuchner.

Kuchner was passionate, curious and caring. She was an advocate and champion of all people, a philanthropist and a leader who was guided by her Jewish values. Kuchner believed that being involved was better than being quiet. This scholarship is intended to give aspiring volunteers the confidence, springboard and experience to become leaders in Jewish communal service.

This year’s Phyllis Bernstein Kuchner Scholarship winner was Shera Bello, JCC Early Childhood Teacher. Bello will use her scholarship award to take Reggio-Emilia classes at the Bank Street Graduate School of Education.

“I applied for the scholarship to allow me to contribute more effectively to the education and well-being of children in my community,” Bello said.

The JCC preschool follows the Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy which allows children to use their imagination to create their own truth. Bello is passionate about creating inclusive and stimulating learning environments that foster creativity, collaboration and critical thinking skills in young learners, and she sees the Reggio Emilia approach as a powerful tool for achieving this goal.

“I am committed to making a positive impact in the field of early childhood education and eager to learn from experts in the field. I am grateful for the opportunity to use this scholarship toward achieving that goal,” she said.

“Phyllis was devoted to building Jewish community, and was an advocate and champion of all people,” said Bob Kuchner. “She believed that being involved in mission-impact organizations like the JCC was so important, and she advised others to do the same.”

The application for the next Phyllis Bernstein Kuchner Scholarship will open in January 2025 and be awarded in May 2025. Applications are reviewed by a committee of JCC Past Presidents and JCC Executive Director, Mike Goldstein.

“Phyllis also believed in l’dor v’dor — one generation taking care of the next. Shera is a powerful example of this, and nothing would have made Phyllis more proud than knowing that this scholarship in her honor will serve to strengthen our JCC and Jewish community,” Goldstein said.

For more information about applying for the Phyllis Bernstein Kuchner Scholarship or supporting this scholarship with a donation, visit

The JCC of Central New Jersey is located at 1391 Martine Avenue in Scotch Plains. The JCC of Central New Jersey is a constituent agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, United Way of Greater Union County and the Westfield United Fund. Financial assistance is available for membership and various programs.