6 Jewish Community Centers Bringing People Together

Jewish community centers, also known as JCCs, provide valuable opportunities to connect with both the culture and other people. They do this by offering a variety of educational, recreational, and social programs to the cities they serve. In no particular order, here are several of these organizations uniting communities across America.

First up at #1 is JCC Chicago, the largest JCC in North America with more than 800 staff in over 15 locations throughout the Chicago metro area. Founded in 1903 to answer the needs of the burgeoning population of Jewish immigrants, the non-profit organization has served the Windy City for over 100 years and has established deep roots in the community.

Today, JCC Chicago serves more than 24,000 children and adults each year, with services ranging from early childcare and after school programs to adult learning classes. The nonprofit's Garoon Gateway to Science, located in Lake Zurich, is a state-of-the-art outdoor park that encourages children to investigate basic principles of science.

Next up at #2 is the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, which serves more than 55,000 residents annually. Its extensive selection of summer day camps provides more than 100 options to satisfy every interest for children in pre-K through 9th grade.

The Center hosts an annual two week-long book festival that brings readers together to interact with their favorite authors. The festival includes a variety of events, including author meet-and-greets, book signings, community readings, and panel discussions.

At #3 is the Springfield JCC in Massachusetts. The Center offers both social and spiritual programs for everyone, regardless of whether or not they are Jewish. Its services cater to all age groups, from children to the elderly, along with programs for the entire family.

Each year, Springfield JCC hosts the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival. Founded in 2004, the Festival screens critically acclaimed films that simultaneously entertain and provide opportunities for reflection and discussion. The lineup is shown in venues across Western Massachusetts, and includes panel discussions and other special events.

Next at #4 is Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center, the only full service J on Long Island's North Shore. The organization provides for the emotional and spiritual health of the area through a variety of support groups for divorce, bereavement, and cancer. It also promotes physical health and wellness through a cutting-edge fitness center.

Sid Jacobson JCC hosts several fundraisers each year, including Eat Bid Laugh, an auction and epicurean event that funds its social programs. Other major fundraisers include Stronger Than Cancer, a 5K run, and A Day on the Greens, a golf and tennis outing that also supports the Center.

At #5 is the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh. As part of its mission to nurture the community, the organization founded the Center for Loving Kindness and Civic Engagement in the summer of 2017. The Center builds relationships with like-minded groups in order to serve the needs of marginalized communities through service projects and advocacy.

In addition to its community programs, JCC Pittsburgh houses the American Jewish Museum at its Squirrel Hill location. The Museum explores contemporary Jewish art with the goal of facilitating dialogue to promote interfaith and intergenerational exploration.

Last up at #6 is the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Founded in 1894 in support of Milwaukee-area immigrants, it was funded in part by the proceeds of Kander's “The Settlement Cook Book,” which was based on recipes that were used in cooking classes at the Center.

Today, this JCC serves the entire community through multiple sites across the state of Wisconsin. The organization's programs are spread out across a number of impact areas including fitness, early childhood education, arts and culture, camping, and adult programs.