By Community staff
After two months that included a ceremonial ribbon-cutting, the affixing of a mezuzah, memory sharing and a “l’dor v’dor” candlelight walk – “from door to door” – the Trager Family Jewish Community Center opened Monday, April 18, the only way it needed.
It opened as if it had always been there.
Early risers waited outside at 5:30 a.m. to be among the first to use the fitness center. Parents dropped their kids off at the separate entrance to the Roth Family Education Center. Swimmers dipped into the pools of the Yarmuth Family Aquatics Center.
Normal, everyday JCC stuff.
There was fanfare. Musicians played in the Weisberg Family Lobby, serenading members as they went about their business, and designated “ambassadors” led groups on tours of the facilities.
For the most part, though, the long-awaited building itself was the fanfare.
“We wanted our members and the community to feel at home, to be wowed,” said Tom Wissinger, vice president and chief operating officer of the JCC, “but also to have an immediate sense of comfort and familiarity when they walked through our doors.”
Wissinger, the COO, along with Laurence Nibur, chair of the contruction committee, led the effort on the building project. Chris Carmicle from PLC Management was the project manager on the job.
Members lined up in the new lobby, waiting to swipe their access cards and walk through to a new JCC experience.
People were understandably excited about working out, walking through or hanging out in the newest Jewish Louisville home.
The opening came one week after the community said goodbye to its JCC home for the past 67 years, now scheduled for demolition within 90 days.
Hundreds gathered on the steps of the old building Sunday evening, April 10, bearing artifacts and swapping memories before lighting candles mounted on Styrofoam cups and marching from the entrance of the old building to that of the new.
“From door to door,” remarked JCC President and CEO Sara Klein Wagner.
Among those in the crowd was Fianna Kronenberg, who recalled arriving in Louisville 15 years ago with her husband, Ariel, their 3-year-old daughter, Emma, and a lot of bills.
Then they met Annette Sagerman, then-membership director of the JCC, who “welcomed us, and we have loved the JCC forever,” Kronenberg said. “It’s a beautiful part of the fabric of our lives in Louisville.”
Prior to the candlelight walk, many members strolled through the Patio Gallery one last time, scribbling their memories on the bare walls with Sharpies, reading what others had already written, or taking snapshots of their favorite anecdotes.
Many used the forum to recall meeting their future spouses in the building, learning to play basketball or how to swim, or just hanging out after school.
For some families, the building had been a generational experience.
Cari Hatch, a granddaughter of late David and Margot Kling, said she recently watched her son, Cooper, become one of the last children to take a swimming lesson in the old indoor pool – the same pool where she swam laps with her grandfather, a past JCC president.
“Just knowing it was the last time and seeing that pool … I saw a memory of him,” Hatch said, tearing up. “Everywhere, I saw memories of my grandparents.”
Among the crowd were several past JCC and Federation board chairs, many of whom were asked to carry artifacts from the old building: a plaque, a silver groundbreaking shovel, a basketball and a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order.
That last artifact was carried by Dennis Hummel, JCC president from 2004 to 2006, who described the small book in his hand as “apropos.”
“My wife and I met here in the seventh grade,” Hummel said, changing subjects. “It was a Club 7 Halloween Party.”
Of course, they lived “happily ever after.”
Others will remember the old building not just for a specific memory, but for what it gave them.
Jennifer Jacobson, an accounts director for Ohlinger Studios, a book and periodical publishing company, works from home, so going to the JCC to work out or attend a function became her way to connect with people.
“The J has given me a friendly, warm, loving place for human connection,” she said. “It sounds corny, but we felt like part of the JCC family.”
Say Hello, Say Goodbye
If you are interested in owning a piece of nostalgia, contact email@example.com.
Pieces of the old JCC, including gym floor, racquetball court and bricks will be available for purchase.
Limited quantity. Please let us know of your interest by Friday, May 13, 2022.