Two years after groundbreaking, J’s $50 million expansion and renovation project is complete, including a new 126,000-square-foot, three-story, state-of-the-art building that features new state-of-the-art amenities with improved accessibility, safety and flood control. damage limitation.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner led the list of dignitaries, which also included U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher and Houston City Councilwoman Abbie Kamin.
“Today’s dedication is a lesson in resilience,” Mayor Turner told the crowd. “The JCC has been the cultural hive of Houston’s Jewish community since it opened in 1936.
“When Hurricane Harvey flooded the JCC with 10 feet of water nearly five years ago, many wondered how the JCC would rebuild, but the JCC quickly rose to the occasion. Instead of closing its doors completely, the center mobilized volunteers and quickly became a mecca for hurricane relief and flood supplies for all of Southwest Houston.”
After Hurricane Harvey, which was the third flood to significantly affect the building, board members came together to evaluate the situation. After confirming their commitment to the neighborhood, they also had to decide what to do with the building.
“We debated whether basic renovations or a major overhaul were needed,” current board president Jeremy Samuels said. “Well, I think you can see across this atrium today that we got the big overhaul.
“We now have this special common room that reflects our optimism and hope. I am honored to represent the board and what I believe is the finest Jewish facility in all of North America.”
Doron Krakow, CEO of the JCC Association of North America, also attended the ceremony. Krakow noted that while fewer people are participating in congregational life, membership in JCCs across the United States and Canada is increasing.
“The people in this room, the people who bring this center to life, are authoring what the future of Jewish life in Houston is going to be,” Krakow said. “They point to Houston and the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC as the standard by which we should all measure ourselves.”
J’s CEO Joel Dinkin, perhaps, said it best.
“After Harvey, we assembled our dream team, and while their goal on paper was to build a building, their true mission was to build a bridge that connects our past to our future,” Dinkin said.
“Building community: It takes time, requires relationships, requires shared values and patience, because we are all in this together. And we’re in this for the long haul.
“The children of our community leaders 60 years ago who built this campus are today’s leaders building communities for tomorrow,” Dinkin said.
The new facility, located on the south side of the current Milton Levit campus at 5601 S. Braeswood Blvd., features a state-of-the-art fitness center with locker rooms, culinary studio, family-centered aquatics complex. indoor and outdoor pools, splash pads and an indoor/outdoor cafe. The main entrance has been moved to the south side of the building, with easy access to all parts of the campus, plus additional parking.
Renovations were made to the existing 27,000 square foot center, which was built in 1969. The installation of flood gates and wall in front of the Joe Weingarten building will protect against future flood damage.
North of the J is the new building of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston.
Embedded in the $50 million capital campaign is an endowment that will support the long-term maintenance needs of the building.
The new space will allow J a more modern destination to continue to offer quality programs for all members of the family – infants, school-age children, teenagers, adults and seniors.
Rep. Fletcher spoke with great pride about the new building.
“J is not just a place where things happen. J is an institution that is part of the history and future of our community, said Rep. Fletcher. “I couldn’t be more proud than to have the opportunity to be here to acknowledge that.”
Councilwoman Abbie Kamin, a member of the Jewish community, beamed with excitement.
“Not so long ago we were standing here for the groundbreaking, and at the time I was pregnant with my son. Now my son is about to turn 2 and we get to enjoy all these buildings have to offer together as a family. So for me, like many of you, this is very personal.
“It is a celebration, but it is important to note a call by extremists for it [Feb. 25] be a day for hatred and anti-Semitism in our nation, and I can think of no more defiant and beautiful way to have today, of all days, be the grand opening.”
Debbie Diamond, J’s Chair-Elect, officially welcomed guests.
“Welcome to the Milton-Levit Family Campus — the rejuvenated home of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center,” Diamond said.
“This is the heart of the Samuels Family Community Pavilion, which is often very loud and a little chaotic. … It definitely feels like home, where we build community together.”