A Snapshot of Some JCCs Around the Country

A Snapshot of Some JCCs Around the Country

Even though the Discover @ the JCC initiative has not been implemented in many Jewish Community Centers (JCC), several JCCs are beefing up their fitness components.

The Tampa (FL) JCC is what its assistant director, Pam Cotner, calls a “mom-and-pop site.” It serves an estimated 700 to 800 members in 27,000 square feet (1,300 square feet of which is devoted to fitness) in north Tampa.

“We have four treadmills, not 19,” Cotner says. “We are convenient for our members, not overwhelming. Our classes usually get 20 people, rather than 40 or 50.”

Cotner adds that the Tampa JCC is truly an intergenerational facility, housing both a preschool and assisted living facility onsite. While the center’s gym and fitness facilities may be smaller than some of the larger JCCs, she adds, the Tampa JCC includes tennis courts and an outdoor pool, which has turned out to be a boon to the local community. In Florida, she explains, most community pools–including those at YMCAs–are outdoor, and most facilities close their pools in the winter months to obviate the cost of heating the pool. The Tampa JCC keeps its pool open, hosts its own swim team and invites YMCA and high school swimmers whose pools are out of commission to use it in the winter months.

Tampa’s JCC, though, may not stay at this size for long. In January, the organization announced plans to create a new state-of-the-art Tampa JCC South Campus in a 75,000-square-foot former armory building. Tampa JCC Executive Director Jack Ross says the JCC is doing a neighborhood needs assessment around the new facility in order to determine what fitness facilities as well as other wellness and community spaces will be added.


The Leventhal-Sidman JCC, which serves Greater Boston out of Newton, MA, already has a larger facility in place. It dedicates an estimated 65,000 square feet to fitness, aquatics and recreation. The facility serves about 11,000 members with everything from suspension training and group cycling to private and group swim lessons. Leventhal-Sidman also has a rock climbing wall and an indoor children’s gym and playground.

Among the center’s most popular offerings are personal training, group fitness, an on-site nutrition/weight-loss program and a new program called J Fit, which is small group personal training. Audrey Edwards, the center’s fitness/wellness director, describes J Fit as a program for members who want a personal training experience at a lower price and with more group involvement than they might get working one-on-one with a trainer. The classes use nontraditional training tools, such as battle ropes, kettle bells, TRX suspension straps and balance equipment. Members can take an unlimited number of classes for $59 per month or $15 for a single drop-in class. Class sizes are limited to 15 people, and prior to signing up for one, participants must complete a free 30-minute fundamentals class.

“No one is doing it around here. We are the first JCC to do it,” Edwards says of J Fit. “We had a demo at our open house, ran free classes for a week and the reception has been amazing. What we found was we really had hit a plateau in our personal training market. People like J Fit because they get personalized attention but it comes in a group setting.”


The Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County (CA) serves an estimated 6,000 members with a full fitness center, an aquatics center that hosts a nationally ranked swim team, a full-sized gymnasium with two full basketball courts, a teen center, a senior citizens center, and a theater and auditorium with banquet facilities. It also has a kosher café and a Holocaust memorial garden on the grounds of the 125,000-square-foot facility.

But perhaps the thing that Athletic Director Jason Meyers is most proud of is a new event called the JCC Fitness Palooza. The full-day event, which premiered last December, was, according to Meyers, “a unique fitness experience and wellness extravaganza that included a Zumba-thon, cycle-athon, group X-athon, mind/body classes featuring yoga and Pilates, a fitness challenge, silent auction and vendor fair.”

Via sponsorship and entry fees, the Fitness Palooza raised money to benefit the American Diabetes Association as well as Merage’s Largest Loser Weight Loss Program. That program encourages Merage JCC members to work out regularly, stay fit and make smarter dietary choices, offering workshops on topics such as emotional eating, preventative wellness, healthy cooking and better eating habits. Meyers says the program’s 75 members have shed a cumulative total of 1,100 pounds since the program started last year.

Another large, notable JCC is the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill, NJ, outside of Philadelphia. The JCC tripled the space it devoted to fitness with a 2007 addition of a health and wellness wing that includes a full gym, fitness center, locker rooms, indoor track, interactive gaming facility, outdoor pool, athletic fields and tennis courts. A preschool, library, social hall, café, meeting rooms, offices and a gift shop are included in another 200,000 square feet of the Katz Center.


Rob Kiewe, the Katz JCC’s director of health and fitness, estimates that the organization has about 8,500 full facility members and that its fitness facilities get an average of 500 to 900 visits daily. The center has an estimated 500 kids who play in its youth basketball program and offers an estimated 150 group exercise classes each week.

Just up the turnpike and outside New York City–in Tenafly, NJ, to be exact–is the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades. This 190,000-square-foot facility includes more than 50,000 square feet dedicated to fitness, with an estimated 13,000 members and featuring a full aquatics center, fitness center, youth fitness center, rehabilitative therapy programs, triathlon training, basketball camps and leagues, group exercise classes, a wellness center, spa center and water park.

Barbara Marrott is Kaplen’s wellness director and group exercise director. Marrott says the facility offers about 75 group fitness classes per week. Zumba and group cycling are hot classes these days, she says, as is a new triathlon club that trains up to 500 members to compete in the New York City Triathlon, with individual coaching for swimming on Mondays, running on Tuesdays and bike riding on Thursdays.

The Kaplen JCC also houses the Seiden Wellness Center, a private facility that offers classes and services to members with special needs, including arthritis sufferers and stroke victims.

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