Steve and Art Sandler: All about the community

by | May 9, 2024 | Other News

The idea of a central Tidewater Jewish community campus had to start somewhere. That place might be traced to Charlotte, N.C. when a then 39-year-old Art Sandler, who was serving as president of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, visited that community and saw their recently built campus.

“I thought it was cool and came back to town with the concept. We had a series of focus groups,” says Art, with people discussing the model over several years. Other federations around the country, he says, were bringing things together.
“Enough people thought it was a good idea and that we should have a campus,” he says.

One of the incentives to think about moving, says his brother Steve Sandler, was driven by the fact that the JCC at Wards Corner had passed its prime. “Many saw a need as Jews had moved away from Norfolk and the old facility was in disrepair and needed work.”

Both are quick to add that it was a collective vision of many community leaders.

“Marvin Simon found the property and seeing the need, asked Bobby Copeland and Bob Josephberg and myself to work with him. It turns out the property was perfect, and the results were wonderful,” says Steve.

As the lead donors, the brothers chose to name the campus after their parents and the community.

Reba and Sam Sandler.
Reba and Sam Sandler.

“Our parents loved our Jewish community,” they say. “They defined themselves by first their family and then their religion and work ethic. Being Jewish was special for Reba and Sam. We loved our parents and couldn’t do enough to honor their commitment to the community, Jewish community, and name.”

“This (campus) did not belong to the Sandler family,” say the Sandlers. “Rather, it belongs to the Jewish community. We just named it.”

Both men say they are satisfied with the outcome of bringing the agencies together. In fact, Steve says “VERY” in call caps. “It worked.”

Steve also believes it could be done again. “We have wonderful energy and caring leadership in our Jewish community.”
“I think it is as beautiful today as when it opened,” says Art. His only regret is that more people don’t go to the Campus. “There are so many wonderful things going on there that we should have more people attending.”

Steve agrees. “I can’t imagine anyone not thinking that the Campus has been a resounding success.”

As far as the future is concerned, Steve believes “it will be what the community wants it to be. Nothing is static and the world and Jewish world is ever changing. Nothing stays the same. But we have a central place for Jews in Tidewater and hopefully it will always be our central address and central place to meet. We can do anything and everything Jewish here.

“We are fortunate to have the professional leadership and lay leadership we have,” says Steve. “We have a wonderful community. Many helped with the success of our Jewish campus. Marvin Simon, of blessed memory, Bobby Copeland, and Bob Josephberg and many, many others. We owe them much. So many helped to build this wonderful facility. We need to thank them all.”