The small pool in the Peck Aquatic Center will be closed for the remainder of the day (6/21). The large pool will remain open. Check the My J App for the Pool Schedules.

Member Communications 5 min read

Taking Community Beyond a Building

By JCC Milwaukee August 4, 2020

“Perhaps as we close one door, we open a window. Jewish community has never required a building to thrive, and tomorrow will be no different.” 

These words from the March 13 message announcing of the closure of our JCC facilities in response to the community spread of COVID-19 were just the beginning of the “window” that came to be known as our Beyond a Building efforts.

Immediately, JCC staff began actively exploring how to fill new spaces, online and beyond, to bring our community together in new, healthy, and meaningful ways; making quick work of transitioning the best of what we do to a virtual, digital environment. Two days after our buildings closed to members, program leadership were invited to a quickly assembled studio to professionally record activities and messages for our community that could be broadcast through social media channels. JCC Facebook Groups were enhanced and amplified to allow more direct staff interaction with our three primary program interest audiences: Fitness & Recreation; Education, Camp, and Families; and Arts and Ideas.

At the same time, staff worked quickly to identify vulnerable populations who would be most in need of community support and outreach. As we moved through spring, the Jewish Community Pantry drive-thru model took shape, KidShare brought our community together through an incredible evening of online engagement and gave us a reason to put on pants (or not), and programs like the Taste & Tradition Cooking Series, Kids Center before- and after-school programs, and Men’s Club began to offer delivery or curbside pickup options to give virtual programs a tangible, uniquely JCC touch. During a time when our teams were reinventing high quality program delivery, having the ability to try new things and offer in-home experiences to our community was made possible by a grant from MJF/ The Fund for Jewish MKE of the Jewish Community Foundation.

As summer approached and the JCC began to open many of its Spaces & Places, our Beyond a Building efforts only grew stronger. The Fitness Team now offers group exercise options both in-person and online and has found the JCC Milwaukee Fitness & Recreation Community Facebook Group to be an important channel for communication with our members. Gan Ami Shabbat Sing and Havdalah with Wendy Cohen continues on Mondays and Fridays at 10AM in the JCC Education, Camp & Families Community Facebook Group with classrooms at both our Whitefish Bay and Mequon campuses tuning in to create community together. And while the JCC Center for Inclusion & Special Needs offered a summer digital subscription available for their participants on Zoom, Tapestry: Arts & Ideas at the JCC is preparing to launch their fall season which will happen entirely online.

What we heard from our community, in voices and actions, is that being a member of the JCC is about more than access to a building. It is about our connections to one another, a commitment to our shared vision for the future, and an investment in the values that unite us. This experience has confirmed what we have always known: that JCC membership is a diverse and engaging experience. Even as our buildings closed, we continued to explore ways to serve the community, engage our members, and deliver a unique experience for all. And this journey would not have been possible without the active support of our members, the majority of whom continued to support the critical work, inclusive mission, and professional staff of the JCC through their ongoing membership commitment even when our doors were closed.

We know this journey is not over, and we continue to depend on the support of our members and users to see us through this moment in time – and prepare us for a new future that is still being built. When we work together, talk together, and imagine together – there is no limit to what we can endure, and what we can accomplish. We will continue to focus on innovating where we can, enhancing our service in new ways, and putting every possible resource into socially connecting while physically distancing.