By Jewish Federation of Louisville
As we collectively embark on a new chapter in Jewish Louisville’s history with the opening of the Trager Family JCC this spring, we have a chance to reflect and remember the spirit and intentionality in which the building was concepted, designed and now, brought to life. So many thoughtful and committed individuals in our community gathered together four years ago, in round table charettes and in numerous planning meetings, to envision a new and welcoming home for our Jewish community.
Early in the planning and design discussions, it was clear that our community was envisioning more than a building.. It was a place of gathering, a place of spirit, a place of joy, a place of meaning, and a place with purposeful and innovative spaces reflective of our Jewish culture and identity. We wanted our JCC to be a place where we welcomed the stranger, where everyone from all walks of life and all stages of life has a home.
We were fortunate to partner with an architectural firm, GBBN, who shared our vision and helped us design and create just this place. Jason Groneck, Principal with GBBN, describes the new Trager Family JCC as a space that “brings new energy to the JCC’s vital programs by maximizing connectivity between them and uniting them around common spaces that reinforce a shared sense of purpose and community.”
As you enter through the front doors of the Trager Family JCC, you will see and feel the embodiment of our Jewish community’s values. The entire building takes on three distinct forms – to affect the heart, the mind and the soul. In the heart, contained within the soul, the main lobby, the openness is instantly apparent. As you look up, you will see a stunning display of hexagons hanging from the ceiling that continue throughout the heart of the building. Looking closely at the hexagons, you start to see the open space between them that create the Star of David. Interior Designer with GBBN, Megan Mershman, explains that this is just one way in which the space is transformed architecturally – to illustrate the holistic connection to mind, body and soul while incorporating elements of Jewish culture.
The heart opens into the body, which is encompassing of a 37,000 sq. ft. fitness and aquatics center. Intentionally, open spaces and glass are incorporated throughout the building to allow for connections between space and people. The body is quite literally the space where one ensures the health and wellness of ourselves and each other. Taking care of ourselves and others is a key and distinct value and mission-based element incorporated in this space.
The third distinct part of the building is the mind. This is the place where our children will spend time as part of the Early Learning Center and will grow, learn and play. The JCC has historically named our children’s age groups and classes after the traditional seven biblical fruits, i.e., the Pomegranates, the Olives, etc. The custom-designed wall coverings and design in this new space at the Trager Family JCC reflect these fruits as they come together to form a tangram. “Tangrams were something as kids, we probably all played with and created different shapes and pictures from our tangram puzzle pieces,” explains Mershman. “It was this concept that we incorporated into the space, the fruits together and in separate expressions to share meaning and life.”
Inspiring and meaningful are two words, among many, to describe the Trager Family JCC. The entire Jewish community and everyone who has been involved in the planning for the new building kept the Jewish value, Tikkun Olam, close to the heart at every stage in the process. We would not be opening the doors of the Trager Family JCC without the generosity of the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence, the Trager Family and the more than 500 donors who consistently motivated the JCC and Federation teams as we completed the work. As we draw near to opening day of the Trager Family JCC, we are reminded of how much we have to be thankful for and how much we have to look forward to in creating new and lifelong memories, together as a Jewish community.