Do you ever find yourself wondering, “how did the J come to be?” or, “where was the first JCC?” Then you are in for a serious treat!
We collected fun facts about JCCs all over the world and thought, “we should share these with our members!” We know you’ll find them fascinating. Enjoy!
1. There are 350 Js in the United States and Canada.
In addition to North America, there are 180 in the former Soviet Union, 70 in Latin America, 50 in Europe, and close to 500 in Israel!
2. The first J opened in Baltimore, Maryland in 1854.
Well, sort of–it was not called a “Jewish Community Center.” It started out as the “Hebrew Young Men’s Literary Association” which then lead to the first YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association) being founded in NYC in 1874. The first YWHA (you got it–Young Women’s Hebrew Association) was added in 1888. In 1917, YMHAs and YWHAs were combined into a Jewish Welfare Board and were later renamed “Jewish Community Centers.” Phew…what a process!
3. An Olympic gold medalist is a JCC Alum.
Cullen Jones, who won a gold medal for swimming, was a childhood member of Metro Express, a swim team at the JCC MetroWest in West Orange, NJ.
4. JCC of Metro Detroit is the largest JCC in North America!
It houses two gymnasiums, a workout area, an indoor full size and kiddie pool, an outdoor full size pool, a Kosher restaurant, a Michigan Jewish war veterans museum, an inline hockey center, a library, ceramics/art rooms, a large multi-purpose room, an art museum, an area dedicated to teaching and learning about tzedakah (charity), a performing arts theatre in the basement, a preschool, offices for summer camps, and other administrative offices and organizations. The top floor is completely dedicated to The Jean and Samuel Frankel Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit, a Jewish High School which opened in 2000. Wow! That must be one huge building.
5. Ingrid Michaelson learned to sing at the JCC.
The famous indie-pop singer-songwriter was a student of the JCC of Staten Island’s Dorothy Delson Lahn Music Institute.
6. JCCs were originally intended for immigrants.
JCCs were established in the 19th century to help immigrants adapt to North American life by teaching them English, assisting with acculturation, and helping them participate fully in their civic responsibilities.
7. JCCs helped out during both World Wars.
The Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) developed a comprehensive infrastructure for attending to the welfare of Jewish military personnel. They continued to serve Jewish Americans in the armed forces both at home and abroad during both wars.
8. Some states don’t have JCCs.
Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming do not have a JCC in their state. What’s up with that?
9. New York has the highest number of JCCs!
They have 13 JCCs. Now that’s what we’re talking about! California comes in second with 12, Florida takes third with 11, and New Jersey just misses the podium with 9 JCCs.
10. The J Denver was founded in 1922.
For nearly 100 years, the J Denver has been a place of refuge for the Jewish people of Denver–a place where they can safely gather under one roof to celebrate the cultural aspect of being Jewish.
If you’re like us, you absolutely love the J and its rich history. We are so lucky to have it as a part of our community and daily life.