WOODBRIDGE – More than 1,000 people filled the JCC of Greater New Haven’s beautifully renovated building on Sunday, March 18, to celebrate the facility’s grand re-opening at the Amity Road campus.
The event was combined with the JCC’s Second Annual Mitzvah Day (a mitzvah is an act of kindness), a Mitzvah Fair, and the renaming and dedication of the Beverly Levy Early Learning Center. Formerly known as Yeladim, the early learning center was named in memory of Beverly Levy, a longtime leader in the Jewish community who died at the young age of 63 in 2014. Beverly’s husband, Dr. John Levy, daughter, Perri, and her mother, Ann Eden, attended the dedication.
The day’s events marked the facility’s official “coming home” just a little more than a year after a devastating fire broke out in a basement sauna at the JCC. The fire, which was ruled accidental, caused more than $2.4 million in damage to the 106,000-square-foot building. Throughout the past year, the JCC continued its operations by relocating the fitness center, early learning center, all activities and corporate offices to other area facilities.
At the grand re-opening, JCC mascot Benny the Bagel danced and offered high-fives to visitors as they entered the main hallway, which was festooned with an arch of white and blue balloons. Visitors toured the renovated facility with its new fitness center and locker rooms, Rothberg Climbing Wall, MakerSpace, Hoos Family Art Gallery, Café 360 coffee shop and food marketplace and, the co-working business center. The revitalized facility also boasts new fitness programs, updated equipment and furnishings, and expanded cultural classes and activities.
“Every Sunday should be like today here at the J,” remarked Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven President Norm Ravski at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the building. “This should be the heart of the community. This should be the place that all of us come for meeting people: for meeting old people that we know, for meeting new people that we want to know, and for having a good cup of coffee.”
As part of Mitzvah Day, members of the Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven’s Shalom Group, teens from the Jewish Teen Education program and Camp Laurelwood volunteers provided more than 300 lunches for Clinton and Old Saybrook social services. Students from Yahad, New Haven’s Community Hebrew School, and the Beverly Levy Early Childhood Learning Center crafted worry dolls for 50 girls at Alma Pre-Military Preparation Program in Israel. Community volunteers and Yahad students helped create more than 50 no-sew blankets for area pet shelters. The Federation’s NextDor young professionals group prepared 35 lasagnas for resettled refugee families in the area. The Towers, along with local BBYO teens and Women’s Philanthropy of the Federation, collected over 10,000 plastic bags to create weatherproof blankets and mats for area homeless shelters. Volunteers also sorted more than 700 pairs of socks for Columbus House and Abraham’s Tent and collected 176 boxes of cereal for Jewish Family Service and the Woodbridge Emergency Food Pantry.
A group of 25 volunteers raised more than $87,000 with a Mitzvah Day two-hour phone-a-thon in support of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven’s Annual Campaign.
A Mitzvah Fair in the JCC’s Vine Family Auditorium showcased area nonprofits and Jewish organizations. The fair boasted a carnival theme complete with a juggling clown, stilt-walker, popcorn and cotton candy, music, games and a face painting station provided by Ezra Academy.
“The JCC is far more than a building – it’s a community,” one member wrote poignantly to the staff after the fire. And on March 18, that community was reunited and strengthened as its members returned home again to the JCC.