Celebrating Two Years and Looking to the Future at the Trager Family JCC  

By Thomas Wissinger
Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
As I sit here on April 18, 2024, marking the two-year anniversary of the opening of the Trager Family Jewish Community Center, it is only natural to reflect on the journey that brought us to this point. What makes the journey so special is that the Trager Family JCC was truly a community endeavor. The countless hours spent by volunteers helping to dream of what the Trager Family JCC could be – whether that is by participating on one the many committees created or by attending a community charrette and/or focus group — should instill a tremendous sense of pride in this place. All of the donors who generously supported this project should know that their contributions allowed us to open the doors to the community, and the community’s response has been overwhelmingly positive. Every person that has come into the Trager Family JCC over the past two years has been vital in creating the exact sense of community that we were hoping to build when we first began dreaming of a new home many years ago.  

However, anniversaries are not only a time to reflect on our accomplishments, they are also a time to look forward to what the future may have in store. Today we begin a new journey, taking the first step in our Phase 2 campus development plan, the Blieden Family Playground. We will cut the ribbon, opening this inclusive play area on May 13 and it will be shared with the entire Louisville community. The Blieden Family Playground will provide a much-needed space where children with differing abilities will be able to play alongside their friends. Our Yachad program and philosophy of inclusion has been a cornerstone of our Camp J and Early Learning Center programs for years, and we are extremely proud to bring the Yachad mission to the greater community through this playground.  

As you’ve probably noted, I said that the Blieden Family Playground is only the first step in our campus’s Phase 2 development plan. So what else will Phase 2 involve? Well, here’s some context: A few years before the Trager Family JCC opened its doors, we acknowledged how vital it was to provide a facility that would serve the entire community. We wanted to make sure that our new building and its surroundings offered programming – and a physical space – that would make everyone who walked through those doors feel welcome and cared about. 

Phase 2 carries that dream and sense of purpose beyond the walls of the Trager Family JCC. In our future development, we plan to create a campus that fulfills what the Trager Family JCC has always envisioned: create spaces and programs that provide opportunities for people to come together. The Blieden Family Playground is a defining space that will allow families with children of all abilities to commune with one another and find their sense of belonging. We look forward to developing a “Family Park” that includes the new playground, an inclusive water play area and the Benovitz Family Pavilion and restroom facilities. Our hope is that the Family Park concept becomes a sought-after destination for the community to create long-lasting memories with their own families, but also with others, strengthening the community bond.  

We are especially grateful to the donors who have named two key parts of our Family Park: Mark and Susan Blieden and Ann Leah Blieden for the Blieden Family Playground, and Shellie Benovitz for the Benovitz Family Pavilion. Their generosity and foresight, reflecting their deep roots in Louisville’s Jewish community, are ensuring that our Family Park dreams come true. 

Taking an even more extended view, in future phases we hope to create a campus that helps accentuate our incredible summer camp program while also providing homes for our partnering Jewish agencies. This vision combines a renovation of our current facilities with the building of new amenities and structures. Our Camp J can look forward to new programming spaces, natural play areas, adventure courses, outdoor shelters, and sports and gardening areas, while our partner agencies will have access to these same amenities, in addition to administrative, educational and cultural spaces. We want our partners to feel at home on a vibrant and engaging Dutchmans Lane campus.  

Regardless of whether we look toward our past or forward to the future, what remains is a spectacular present that so many people have made possible. The Trager Family JCC reflects the community’s shared beliefs and values and what it means to take care of and provide for one another, while creating communities within communities. Thank you to everyone who has helped us get to the second birthday of the Trager Family JCC and please know that we could not be more excited to share this future with you.  


Thomas Wissinger is COO of the Jewish Federation of Louisville and the Trager Family JCC 


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