Big Reveal Builds Excitement for Generations Campaign at IGNITE!
This article includes remarks by Judy Waxman, Keith Zimmerman and Rabbi Daniel Septimus at IGNITE!
IGNITE! gave community members a chance not only to gather, but to take a first look at the incredible future planned for the J and the next step toward making this dream reality. More than $1 million was raised at IGNITE! for the Generations Campaign.
Generations Campaign Co-Chairs Judy Waxman and Keith Zimmerman and Shalom Austin CEO Rabbi Daniel Septimus presented what was truly a moment of celebration for the community.
Five years ago, when the Generations Campaign launched, it was with the understanding that the community was at a tipping point. Just as Austin has experienced explosive growth, so has the area’s Jewish community. It was not so long ago that the local Jewish population was very small. By the early 80s, however, the community had grown enough to open the first JCC on Jollyville Road. A spiritual, social and cultural hub was born.
Then the 90s ushered in seismic changes. Dell and the tech industry took off, and suddenly Austin was the place to live, as it remains to this day. With the Jollyville JCC no longer adequate to meet the needs of a soaring population, in 1993 the community took a momentous step forward. That year, Michael and Susan Dell announced the purchase of the Hart Family Ranch, a 40-acre tract which has since become the heart and soul of Jewish life in Austin.
Many community members gave generously to that very first capital campaign. The result was the Dell Jewish Community Campus, a big, beautiful campus that, for a generation, has served Austin’s Jewish community well. But by 2013, with 150 new residents arriving in our city each day, our community had quadrupled. Put simply, the community was running out of space.
Leaders faced a tough choice. Either max out the J’s capacity to keep providing all the great programs and services everyone had gotten used to. Or, create a vision for an expansive future. The choice was obvious. The decision was made to move forward with a new capital campaign to expand and renovate the Dell JCC so it can continue to meet the needs of the fast-growing population.
“In the five years since launching the Generations capital campaign, more than 650 families and individuals have stepped up and said yes to a new vision for the Dell Jewish Community Center. Yes to seeing this challenge through to the finish line. That’s a very rare commitment. And you made it without plans or building permits, or any of the guarantees people often want before making such a commitment. You made it on faith. That speaks volumes about the unity and values of this community. And from the bottom of our hearts we can’t thank you enough,” said Zimmerman.
Septimus explained that the community could continue having complete confidence in the Generations Campaign.
“We retained a top notch consultant who has worked on five other major JCC projects. We studied their results—what went well and what would they change if they did it all over again,” Septimus said.
Shalom Austin hired a leading market study firm who has conducted over 800 studies. The results showed robust growth opportunities that—if its recommendations are followed—will lead to a financially sustainable JCC, one that will grow the organization's impact in the community through critical programs and engagement like never before. This is really happening.
The Generations Campaign is ready to start. And leaders are starting with the architectural firm, Beck—an award-winning design and construction team with deep knowledge and expertise, and a passion for people and caring—the best partner to achieve the community's shared vision. Together, with talented civil engineer Garza, Shalom Austin will submit the city site development permit next month, and start down the path to creating a world-class campus.
This path reflects the creativity and innovation of this community and city. And most importantly, it not only remains the warm, friendly place it already is, but expands to embrace every single individual, no matter where they are on their Jewish journey.
"The new JCC will truly be a vibrant home for the 21st century, welcoming people of all ages and abilities. It will be a place to make memories, form friendships and create lifelong connections. A place where Jewish Austin will come together in all the moments, big and small, that bring joy and meaning and context to our lives. Whether you’re a native Austinite or a new arrival, the new J has a place for you. Whether you’re young or old, married or single, with kids or not, the new J’s for you," Waxman said.
At the heart of the expansion is a new community and fitness building. Beyond these front doors is a place for multi-generational experiences, a place where people will have access to the services they need, a hub for our community where people of all ages and stages, of different backgrounds and interests can convene and have their lives enhanced.
Among the many exciting features will be the Dell Fitness & Wellness Center; The David & Shantel Ferdman Family Aquatic Center; the Bernard & Audre Rapoport Center for Jewish Culture and Education; the Susan Zane & Bobby Epstein Family Community Hall - Gloria & Harvey Evans Performance Hall; the Clifford Zeifman Family Early Childhood Program; the Hurt Family Tennis Center; and rooms to accommodate a wide-range of programming and meetings. Jewish Family Service will finally have a home on the campus. And here is more good news: the walk-up to the JCC is about to get a lot shorter. Soon drivers will be able to drop family and friends off right up front.
The center around which it all turns will be the Town Square, a spacious outdoor area designed for large community events, kids playing and adults schmoozing, where one just might catch a movie under the stars. The outside meets the inside in what can be thought of as the living room of Austin’s Jewish community. A space where generations will come together to eat, drink, flip open a laptop, play a game of maj and exchange ideas. A beautiful, bright space that invites mingling. And of course, something near and dear to most Austinites: a new café with coffee and food.
A centerpiece of the J will be the renovated Susan Zane & Bobby Epstein Family Community Hall - Gloria & Harvey Evans Performance Hall, a venue with stadium-style retractable seats where community members can hold a bar or bat mitzvah or other special event, or grab a ticket, take a seat and enjoy a renaissance of Jewish arts and culture.
It will be about health and wellness at the J. Those who work out, or have been thinking about it, will be glad to hear that the fitness and wellness center will significantly grow in size. The dressing rooms will feature wood lockers, and a new family changing room. Pump it up in the new state of the art weight and personal training area, or a new cardio area flooded with natural light and views of the pool below. With multiple group exercise rooms, members can spin, sweat, strike a yoga pose or just take a deep breath and then head to the spa.
Outside, an expanded aquatic center will offer shaded chairs for Mom and a snack bar for Dad to grab food. Then there is Bubbe running after the kids on the slide, splash pad and family pool. Tennis players are also in luck—there will be lighted courts for lessons, leagues, or just for having fun hitting the ball around.
Finally, to bring it all together, there will be a connecting bridge to the education building where preschool, AJA and Hebrew school kids will make a beeline to activities at the J.
Many have been invested in this campaign from day one. Without their generous support, the community would not be where it is today. For some, this is a first opportunity to be a part of building this future.
Generations Campaign leaders are honored and excited to have two challenge grants. First, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation will continue to match every gift made to the campaign up to $6.25 million. Next, the J. E. and L. E. Mabee Foundation Inc. will grant the community $500,000 if we raise $25 million by Oct. 1. This is money the community cannot afford to leave on the table.
Waxman said, “We see the finish line, and we’re going to build this.”
To receive the Mabee Foundation challenge grant, the community needs to do its part.
“It all starts with you. We’re here to tell you, it can end with you,” she added. “Everything you saw tonight, and so much more, can be your JCC. With every gift tonight matched by Michael and Susan [Dell], we can meet the Mabee Foundation deadline and blow right past it.
To our donors, Keith and I ask you to consider joining us in stretching your pledge tonight by adding two or more additional years to your commitment. For those of you who have not yet had the opportunity to join the Generations Campaign, tonight’s the night. We are asking you to give generously, to help us meet the challenge laid down for us. Your commitment is very important, and we don't want to cross the finish line without you.”
The Generations Campaign comes together first by meeting the October deadline and exceeding $25 million to realize the full vision of this phase of the Generations project. It will take everyone at all levels coming together in solidarity to make this happen. The time is right. Please give generously. ■
For more information about the Generations Campaign and the future of the Dell Jewish Community Campus, visit shalomaustin.org/generations.