Mia Avni, left, and Lauren Lutz-Coleman.

The JCC of Central New Jersey named the first Phyllis Bernstein Kuchner Scholarship winners earlier this month.  The scholarship, open to local community members, was established in honor and memory of longtime JCC member, Board member and volunteer Phyllis Bernstein Kuchner, by her husband Bob Kuchner.

Phyllis 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. Phyllis believed that being involved was better than being quiet. This $1,000 scholarship is intended to give aspiring volunteers the confidence, springboard and experience to become leaders in Jewish communal service.

The applications received spoke deeply to Phyllis’s beliefs, so the decision was made to award the scholarship to two worthy recipients.

The first recipient, Lauren Lutz-Coleman, will be using the scholarship award to develop a writing workshop for teens at the JCC.  Based on the premise that students read and learn better when they see themselves reflected in the works they are reading, this workshop will provide teens with the opportunity to write stories that share their experiences.  Participating students can opt to enter their stories into the Shoelace Learning platform to share their stories with students all over the country.  Through this scholarship, Lauren will be able to empower and educate teens in our community to create a body of literature that is truly for students by students.

Phyllis Kuchner was an advocate and champion of all people, a philanthropist and a leader who was guided by her Jewish values.

The second recipient, Mia Avni, is a new high school graduate.  Mia will be using her $1,000 award to defray the cost of her upcoming gap year in Israel through Young Judaea.  Mia will be spending four months in Jerusalem studying Hebrew and taking classes in Jewish Thought and Practice, Jews and the American Civil Rights Movement, Modern Israel, The Politics Behind Conflict and Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The second part of her program will consist of an internship in her field of interest in Tel Aviv.

“Phyllis was devoted to building Jewish community, and was an advocate and champion of all people,” Bob Kuchner said.  “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 2024 and be awarded in May 2024.  Applications are reviewed by a committee of JCC Past Presidents, Bob Kuchner and JCC Executive Director, Mike Goldstein.

“Phyllis also believed in l’dor v’dor — one generation taking care of the next. Nothing would have made Phyllis more proud than knowing that this scholarship in her honor will help empower our next generation of leaders, volunteers and voices who 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 www.jccnj.org/pbkscholarship.

The JCC of Central New Jersey is located at 1391 Martine Ave. 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.