The first 20 years – a great start!

by | May 9, 2024 | Other News

At the risk of sounding cliché – it seems like yesterday. I joined Jewish Family Service of Tidewater in September of 2003 as the Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus of the Tidewater Jewish Community was under construction. What an honor to attend my first Simcha Campaign meeting, ably led by Bob Josephberg and Bobby Copeland, and to be able to witness first-hand their passion in leading the campaign to build the new central address for our Tidewater Jewish community. What an inspiration to watch the dreams of so many community leaders become a reality. What an opening dedication event for our community!

Fast forward 20 years and our COMMUNITY campus is a vibrant central address for Jewish Tidewater. Not a day goes by where I don’t marvel at the intergenerational feeling of our campus as I see students from Strelitz International Academy and Camp JCC walking through the Copeland Cardo, intermixed with community members of all ages who are enjoying the fitness center, playing Mahjong, attending a Melton class, or simply enjoying lunch at the Cardo Café.

Over these couple of decades, despite a global pandemic, unprecedented wars, and international crises, we’ve experienced a growth of activity at the Campus. Camp JCC is booming, throughout the year but particularly each summer, as well as the regular Sunday Fundays. The creation of the Konikoff Center for Learning brand through the UJFT/JCC has brought increased educational programing to the Campus, and throughout our community, engaging more of Jewish Tidewater than ever before. Organizations on the campus continue to evolve, as our Jewish day school, SIA, became an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, the only IB primary school in Hampton Roads, with expanding enrollment. Jewish Family Service of Tidewater streamlined the agency’s continuum of care and grew what is now Embrace Counseling, seeing significant growth in the demand for guardian and conservator services throughout Tidewater and Virginia. JFS continues to provide a vital spectrum of social services for the region from its offices on the Campus. Tidewater Jewish Foundation has seen a growth in assets, developed a new strategic plan, and works with all the organizations throughout our community to secure our Jewish future.

Our Campus continues to make updates, adding the Marty Einhorn Pavilion in 2022, honoring Marty Einhorn, of blessed memory, a dedicated leader and beloved friend to all. The Einhorn Pavilion is enjoyed by people of all ages and is a jewel for our campus.

In 2023, Simon Family JCC office space was redesigned to become the Fleischmann Lounge, in loving memory of Joe Fleischmann, a warm and loving man who considered the JCC his second home. Today, the Fleischmann Lounge provides a bright and inviting space for adult programming and other community gatherings.

Suffice it to say, the hopes and dreams of our community leaders have been realized. Today, the Sandler Family Campus is a vibrant, central address for our Tidewater Jewish community. As we honor the past, cherish the present, and plan for the future – the best is certainly yet to come!

Betty Ann Levin is executive vice president/CEO, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and Simon Family JCC.