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Stamford Jewish Community Center: Open to All

By Kelly Church

The Stamford Jewish Community Center (JCC), commonly referred to "home away from home" by regular visitors, is a place for everyone to gather - including those of all ages and religious faiths. After being founded nearly 100 years ago, the center has been building long-lasting relationships among the Stamford residents.

Originally dubbed The Hebrew Institute in 1916, the building was designed to be a social environment for the Jewish community in Stamford. As of 1930, the institute has been known as the Stamford Jewish Center and opened a new building to accommodate for more guests and activities. The doors of the new location on Prospect Street were flooded with people coming to use the gymnasium, bowling alley, dining room, and swimming pool.

In 1973, a 15-acre plot was purchased to build a new home, which is the JCC's current location. The Stamford Jewish Center was renamed the Stamford Jewish Community Center in 1977, and that year also saw membership nearly double. In 1981 the community officially moved into The William and Sally Tandet Building on their 15-acre estate and has been there ever since.

"The Stamford Jewish Community Center is often referred to as a home away from home," says Nancy Schiffman, Associate Executive Director of the center. "Most members and visitors find the environment to be warm and welcoming, not just to those of the Jewish faith but to all those who enter the doors."

The community center is a hub of activity in the Stamford area. Guests and members have access to after-school programs, youth sport classes, community leagues, summer youth programs, adult fitness classes, educational and cultural programs, adult learning, support groups and community service programs.

"We have a highly-acclaimed aquatics department," says Schiffman. "On any given Sunday morning, families of all backgrounds can be found learning to swim and splashing around in the pool together. There is something for everyone at the JCC."

The community and the Stamford Jewish Community Center have a mutually supportive relationship. The center provides programs to get the community involved in causes that in turn benefit their neighborhood.

The community center hosts events like the Kid's Triathlon to encourage youth activity, a 5K/10K Run/Walk to benefit the JCC JumpStart Program for kids with special needs, an annual theater performance put on by the JCC's The Center Women, the annual Jewish Art & Film Festival, the yearly Purim Carnival, and the competitive swim team the Stamford J Stingrays, to name a few. Not only do these programs encourage community support, but they also get people engaged with each other, building relationships they can take outside the community center.

"Many deep friendships and profound bonds are developed at the JCC, whether they are parents of nursery school children, adults who work out in our fitness center day after day [or] children making lifelong friendships through our youth programs," Schiffman says. "The connections made at the JCC create an intimate neighborhood within a large city."

This intimacy and creating a united neighborhood of people is what the center is all about. They don't discriminate based on age, gender or religious faith. Although the Stamford Jewish Community Center is founded on the Jewish faith and values, it gladly welcomes everyone in its doors.

Schiffman says that the values and skills sets that children and teens learn at the JCC will follow them throughout their lives "and, we hope, help them make a positive impact on the world around them."

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