A Message from Your Jewish Community Center

Thursday, December 6, 2018
Posted by: CEO Joel Dinkin and Board President Lauren Kaufman Blachman

Dear Friends,

As your Evelyn Rubenstein JCC President and your Chief Executive Officer, we would like to take this opportunity to share some important updates and insights about the current state of the J as we look to the future.

Fall 2016: Vision and Planning

In the fall of 2016, our Board of Trustees completed a visioning process which resulted in the creation of a master plan for the J. Elements of the plan included significant renovations and updates to our 50-year-old building and the approval of a capital campaign. From January to August 2017, J leadership embarked on a fundraising initiative which raised 50% of our goal. We were preparing to share these exciting plans with the community in September 2017.

2017: Hurricane Harvey Hits

Then, Hurricane Harvey hit, forcing the J to pause and shift gears. We became singularly focused on one goal: To repair the Levit Campus and the Merfish Teen Center, both extensively damaged by Hurricane Harvey, and get them back “online” as soon as possible. Seven weeks after the storm, we completed the repairs to the Merfish Teen Center. Parts of the J on the Levit Campus re-opened in late October 2017. The last of the Harvey-related repairs will be completed this December as we install flood gates and other mitigation barriers to protect the Weingarten building from future flooding.

Tremendous Support, Positive Outcomes

While the bricks and mortar were being repaired, our staff and volunteer leaders stayed focused on re-engaging our community in programs and activities, underscoring our belief that the J’s purpose is to fulfill its mission of building community and serving as our town square. What we have witnessed is truly amazing and we want to share a few outcomes with you:

  1. More children attended day camp in the summer of 2018 than in any prior summer; your J served 1,000-plus different children representing more than 7,400 camper weeks.

  2. Early childhood enrollment in the Bertha Alyce School continues to grow, with 210 children and a new group of infants starting in January.

  3. Attendance at the recently completed Ann and Stephen Kaufman Jewish Book and Arts Festival exceeded 4,000 people.

  4. Membership continues to rebound. Following a 10% post-Harvey membership decline, we are pleased to report that the last eight months have brought membership back up to just 2% behind pre-Harvey levels.

  5. Our 28th annual Children’s Scholarship Ball, held last spring to benefit the Irvin Kaplan Scholarship Fund, raised a record amount, enabling more than 200 families to enroll in our early childhood and summer camp programs.

  6. Today and every day, we deliver 375 meals to homebound seniors through our J Meals on Wheels program.

None of this would have been possible without the generosity and support of you and our partners, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and the United Way of Greater Houston.

Envisioning the Future

When we started our visioning and strategic planning in 2016, we did so with an eye to the future. Now, with most post-Harvey repairs complete and our programs back to normal, we are picking up where we left off. Faced with some new, challenging questions and the added mindset shared by many homeowners who also pushed the pause button, we want to assure you that we remain steadfast in the belief that our J home remains a hub of our community. As we continue contemplating, imagining, and being mindful of our community’s pulse, we also commit to communicating with you as the J’s future course becomes more clear.

May Hanukkah’s important message of dedication, hope and resiliency that inspired all of us through difficult times continue to guide us all today, shaping our future together and fulfilling our obligation of L’Dor va’Dor: From generation to generation.


Joel Dinkin Signature Lauren Kaufman Blachman Signature
Joel Dinkin
Chief Executive Officer
Lauren Kaufman Blachman
President, Board of Trustees


Category: ERJCC Blog