There’s something about this place!
There’s something about this place…a place that welcomes with open arms all people and provides programming, education, and events celebrating Jewish culture. And that is probably why there are over forty current member families who have belonged to the JCC (Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus) for 50 years or longer!
Fred Luper’s family has been affiliated with the JCC for over 75 years. “When I was four years old, I attended the preschool which was an institute on Bryden Road before the original center was build,” Luper, now in his 70s, clearly recalls, “When the new building was opened, I was a pin boy in the bowling alley. I earned nine cents a game.”
Luper left Columbus for higher education, participating in theater at Cornell University with his wife, Carol. When they returned to Columbus where Luper started building his law practice, Luper began his theatrical activities at the JCC attending acting classes with his wife. He took a hiatus to build his practice and raise children, but his families’ involvement with the JCC only deepened.
“My children all went to JCC preschool,” Luper said, “My daughter, Betsy, was in plays and my son, Doug, was and continues to be a basketball player at the center,” Luper said, “My other son, Steve, lives in Seattle but he met his wife at a JCC co-ed softball game.”
All seven of Luper’s grandchildren have attended the JCC preschool as well. “Much of our lives are centered around the Center one way or the other,” Luper said.
Luper has been instrumental in supporting cultural arts at the JCC, specifically Gallery Players. He serves on the Gallery Players committee and suggested six years ago to have an annual fundraiser specifically to support Gallery Players, bringing in special performances and creating a fun night out for patrons. The second year, the Gallery Players fundraiser was on the night of a final four college basketball game in which Ohio State was competing, but the night still had over 300 people in attendance. Luper is an Honorary Lifetime Board Member and both he and his wife have served the JCC in multiple roles.
On February 24 beginning at 8 p.m the 2018 JCC Gala will thank and honor all its members, especially the 40+ families who have believed in the JCC and its mission for more than a half century. This year, 20% of JCC preschoolers are children of JCC preschool alumni. The youngest JCC members start out as infants in the JCC Early Childhood Education program. The oldest and wisest can tell over sixty years of JCC stories. Many septuagenarians at the JCC grew up in Columbus and spent their formative days at “the Center”, attending preschool, Hebrew school, Boy Scouts, BBYO and other youth activities, athletics, and camp. Their children come to the JCC, and their children after that. Many members have built their families in Columbus and their lives at the JCC.
It’s not unusual to see multiple generations at the JCC play many roles. JCC Children’s Programming Coordinator Kaley Rosenthal grew up at the JCC where her parents and grandparents were active members.
“My whole family is involved at the JCC. Both my mom (Susan) and dad (Rick) worked as camp counselors when they were young and my mom was a lifeguard in college. She then was preschool teacher. Both my brother (Sam) and I attended JCC preschool. We had our Bar and Bat Mitzvah parties here. I sang in the youth choir. Sam has worked in the preschool and at camp. Both our first jobs were at camp.”
Besides Rosenthal having a leadership role at the JCC (for which she won the 2017 Larry S. Moses Outstanding Young Professional Award), her entire family is still active at the JCC.
“My dad and Sam play in the recreational leagues, my mom leads art classes in the preschool. My grandparents (Wes and Ina) spend most of their time in Florida now, but when they are in Columbus, everyone knows them.”
Rosenthal’s grandfather is a retired prominent dentist, and her father is an optometrist, both with practices in close proximity to the JCC.
“It’s really cool that I work at a place where my whole family has spent such a huge part of their lives. Because we have done so much all across the JCC, everyone knows someone in my family and it makes everyone at the JCC feel like an extension of my family.”
Rosenthal is also the Kaleidoscope director, programming afterschool activities for over 90 students that include recreation, Judaics, educational extracurriculars, and student tutoring. Kaleidoscope is the CBUS Top Picks as #1 for afterschool tutoring.
“It feels like family here,” Rosenthal said, “I feel valued here. It was a great part of my childhood and it’s so fulfilling to bring back programs I did as a kid and I loved. Every time I walk down to the lobby, I can start conversations with anyone I see because they are people I know.”
Nikki Henry, JCC Early Childhood Director, has been working with the JCC preschools for over 34 years. She’s seen preschoolers grow up and send their own children to the preschool.
“I’m going to start getting preschool alumni grandchildren soon,” she joked.
Henry says the preschool provides a strong connection to the community.
“These families return to the JCC because they want their children to have the same rich Jewish experience and upbringing that they had as a preschooler,” Henry said, “It is our responsibility to engage the next generation around Jewish values, experiences and text, which will help form the very foundation of our next generation. L’dor Vador refers to continuity, to the responsibility of passing on spiritual knowledge and cultural traditions from generation to generation; this will help us sustain the customs, heritage and memories of Jewish people.”
Henry says parents (and sometimes grandparents) will walk in to the preschool and it will feel like no time has passed. “They still feel like its 30 years ago,” Henry laughs, “the buildings have changed, the preschool has expanded, but the warm feelings never leave.”
The JCC is aware of the importance of providing high quality Jewish experiences at preschool and camp for families of all economic levels. That is why for the second year in a row the JCC Gala will be benefitting JCC Scholarships for Children.
With funds raised from the Gala, 150 kids will benefit from over $250,000 in scholarship tuition assistance. Henry sees the direct result in how that can change families’ lives.
“We are an agency with the philosophy of ‘families first,” Henry said. “We haven’t lost our heart and we put the needs of families at the forefront of our attention. We will figure out a way to help them and these scholarships are instrumental in doing so.”
There’s something about this place. A place with programming for everyone, a place many feel is a second home, a place they trust to help raise their children and a place that is looking to give to the next generation of its members by providing children’s scholarship funds raised from this year’s Gala. For information on sponsorships and tickets, contact Sheila Cline at email@example.com or 614-559-6225.