Tucson JCC 2015

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Mind, Body & Soul A Place for Everyone

Tucson Jewish Community Center www.BizTucson.com

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Tucson’s Heart JCC Builds Lifetime Memories By Gabrielle Fimbres If a building could have a heart, it would be the Tucson Jewish Community Center. With a brand-new fitness facility, expansive programming for babies, children, teens, adults and seniors, and an energized focus on wellness, The J has something for everyone. “You really can be here for a lifetime,” said Todd Rockoff, president and 70 BizTucson


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CEO of the Tucson J. The J is for people of all faiths, races, backgrounds and abilities, serving as a model for what a true community center can be, Rockoff said. “We look at ourselves as a neighborhood,” Rockoff said. “In your neighborhood you can find all kinds of fun, valuable things to do.” This is one cool neighborhood.

A stroll through the two-story, 110,000-square-foot building on 50 acres at 3800 E. River Road finds Tucsonans of all ages seeking wellness in its many forms. Bodies pump to the music in spin, cardio and dance classes. Members build endurance and strength on brandnew fitness machines. The thrill of competition is found in www.BizTucson.com

History of The Tucson J 1946 – The Jewish Community Council is established. 1950 – The Tucson Jewish Community Center opens at 134 S. Tucson Blvd. 1955 - The center moves to 102 N. Plumer Ave. 1977 – Long-range planning for a new center is underway. 1979 – Administrative offices move into new headquarters at 5410 E. Pima St. Activities are conducted at a dozen locations as a part of the “Center Without Walls” concept. 1988 – Construction is underway at 3800 E. River Road. Donors raise $10 million. 2012 – Renovation and expansion plans are developed and a $4 million capital campaign is launched.

the Junior Olympic-sized pool and on the basketball, tennis, racquetball and volleyball courts. Toddlers ride tricycles through the Sculpture Garden, admiring the ever-changing works of art. Babies are rocked and read to, preschoolers explore numbers and colors and adults with disabilities learn and grow. It’s a place of camaraderie, fitness, learning, recreation, friendship and more. Following a capital campaign and an expected $4.1 million in improvements, The J is bigger and better than ever – starting with the remodeled and expanded fitness facility, with stunning views and state-of-the-art equipment and classrooms. “The JCC is not just a place to exercise,” Rockoff said. “We are a place www.BizTucson.com

where people can find wellness, and that plays out through arts and culture, sports, early childhood and adult programming, volunteerism, involvement in social action. The J brings together all of these components of wellness.” While the center is dedicated to enhancing Jewish culture, only about half of members are Jewish. “We have so much here to offer – and it’s open to everyone,” said Denise Wolf, senior VP and COO at The J. “It’s the secret gem of Tucson. People don’t know about it.” Phase 1 of The J’s renovation is complete, with newly opened 15,000-squarefoot sports and wellness facilities and the new Café at The J, at a cost of $4.1 million. Overseeing the project was W.E. O’Neil Construction. Facilities include three new exercise

studios, four renovated locker rooms and two family changing rooms. Phase 2 includes the construction of programming space to better accommodate special needs programs – including one for adults with a long waiting list – and to provide additional space for early childhood and after-school programs, including an indoor play area. The Arizona Diamondbacks in February presented its Grand Slam Award to The J, which was selected to receive $76,000 in support of a play structure for the new indoor play area. Phase 3 will include enhancements to the arts and culture program. Fundraising continues for the completion of these projects. The J operated in several locations in Tucson before opening in its current continued on page 72 >>> Spring 2015 > > > BizTucson 71

Photos courtesy of the Tucson Jewish Community Center

March 2015 – Dedication of the remodeled and expanded center.



Photos courtesy of the Tucson Jewish Community Center

continued from page 71 location in 1989. The land is owned by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and The J leases it for $10 a year. Under Rockoff’s leadership, The J is creating new partnerships with Tucson organizations, including Tucson Medical Center, the University of Arizona, Alliance Bank, Fox Tucson Theatre and more. “When people work together, they are stronger,” Rockoff said. “We are out in the community as a good partner, working with other institutions to make Tucson a better place to live and work.” Partnerships with TMC have included a Family Wellness Expo in November 2014 and the inaugural Tucson Family Triathlon, scheduled for April 19. “We are very happy to be partnering with another community-based organization that has such a strong commitment to wellness,” said Mary Atkinson, TMC’s director of wellness. Rockoff said, “We want to be a hub of wellness for the entire region. We want to be a thought leader and a trend 72 BizTucson


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leader in wellness – and we can’t do it alone. Partnership becomes that much more valuable.” The J also serves as a wellness resource for the business community. “Research tells you that when employees feel well and are healthy they are more productive,” Rockoff said. Companies use The J as a fitness facility for employees and for ongoing training and staff retreats. The facilities also serve as a resource for the greater community. “We have a beautiful ballroom, Sculpture Garden, meeting rooms and other areas available for social and corporate events,” Rockoff said. “You almost feel like you are out of town when you come here.” Another goal is to grow membership at The J, which has about 1,700 membership units – family, individual and senior memberships. “We would like to grow that number to 2,100 within the next year,” Rockoff said. Tana Jones, director of development at The J, said the new facility supports the need to grow.

“Our donors see it as an investment in the community,” she said. “The J is a true community center that is open for all. It’s an opportunity for parents to have a holistic view of a healthy family. Families can invest in themselves here.” Susan Frank, director of health and wellness, said exercise is only the start. “You are not just walking into a fitness center, you are walking into a community. You see kids in the hallway out on walks, you see people enjoying public spaces, you see an orchestra playing. It’s a testament to our concept of wellness and caring for the whole person. That’s what sets us apart and cannot be duplicated at a fitness center. That’s the JCC experience.” Tucson developer Donald Diamond, who has supported the efforts of The J for decades, called the remodeled facility “gorgeous.” “This one has all the bells and whistles,” Diamond said. “It’s a shining light for the entire community.”

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Donald Diamond

This is a great community to be involved in because the depth and breadth of what we do at The J is really astounding. There is endless potential here. PHOTOS: BRENT G. MATHIS

Brenda & Bill Viner

Ken Light

– Todd Rockoff, President & CEO Tucson Jewish Community Center

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Tom Warne Fran Katz Barney Holtzman


Lex Sears

Mel Zuckerman


At Home at The J

Lifetime Love Guides JCC Leader By Gabrielle Fimbres Todd Rockoff was surely born to be at the helm of the Jewish Community Center. As a kid growing up in Rochester, N.Y., Rockoff’s second home was the JCC. “If I was not at school or playing sports, my friends and I were all at The J,” Rockoff said. “We learned to swim there, we went to camp there. We learned to play basketball. It was something we did together.” The impact of The J was not lost on Rockoff, and by high school, he knew what he wanted to do in life. “I had an eye toward the JCC field.” He majored in recreation and leisure studies and education at State University of New York of Cortland, and began his career 30 years ago at The J in Scranton, Pa. “I was drawn to the idea that people have leisure time so they can play and learn and grow, achieving balance in life,” Rockoff said. He moved on to The J in Calgary, Alberta, and most recently served as executive director of the Shaw JCC in Akron, Ohio. Rockoff is now at the helm of the Tucson JCC as president and CEO, leading this organization that is open to people of all faiths and backgrounds through an exhilarating chapter of expansion and an energized focus on wellness. www.BizTucson.com

“This is a great community to be involved in because the depth and breadth of what we do at The J is really astounding. There is endless potential here,” he said. Donald Diamond, a longtime supporter and visionary for The J and chairman of Diamond Ventures, called Rockoff “sensational.” “I am extremely pleased with Todd,” Diamond said. “Ken Light (The J’s retired president and CEO) got us where we are and Todd is taking us to a new level.” For Rockoff, it was the job that almost didn’t happen. When Light retired after leading the organization for 28 years, Rockoff was approached about applying. But the time wasn’t right for Rockoff to leave Akron. Within a few months, however, the pieces fell into place. “I was drawn to the reputation The Tucson J has, knowing Ken for the years I did, knowing what a great job he had done here,” said Rockoff, who started at the position in July 2013. He said the job “was meant to be.” “My family and I feel very much at home in Tucson. It’s a great place to live and raise a family and I have found the people to be warm and welcoming and open to new ideas.” Between them, Rockoff and his wife, Jenni, have four children. Ariella, 23,

lives in New York with her husband. Jacob, 21, attends Ohio University, Jonathan, 19, is a student at Ohio State University and Benjamin, 16, is a sophomore at Catalina Foothills High School. Rockoff came to Tucson as The J was in the middle of a capital campaign, with the ultimate goal of raising $4 million for renovation and expansion of the two-story community center that, at 25 years old, was starting to show its age. And, under the category of good problems to have, more space was needed for the breadth of activities that draw people to The J. “People have been incredibly generous,” Rockoff said of donors. “There is a shared vision of The J being part of something bigger, and part of an overall wellness piece that is important for the community.” Rockoff approaches his leadership with energy and positivity that serve him well. “I like to say we start with ‘yes,’ and we’ll figure it out from there,” he said. He is in awe of the sense of community that is created at The J. “Our hope is that when people come through those doors, there is a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose and that it’s a place where they are going to find their friends, much like the experience I had growing up.”

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Susan Frank

Director of Health & Wellness The Tucson J

Health & Wellness Cornerstones Programs Abound for the Body, Mind, Soul By Gabrielle Fimbres

Sports & Fitness Exercise is at the heart of wellness, and there could be few more beautiful spots to get the blood pumping than the Tucson Jewish Community Center’s newly renovated fitness center. “Our new facility is attracting, exciting and inspiring a whole new group of younger people and others who are seeking fitness and wellness,” said Susan Frank, director of health and wellness. Classes in yoga, boot camp, cycling, tai chi, Zumba, Body Pump, line dance, Qigong and more are held in spacious new classrooms in shades of green, blue and turquoise. Weight and cardio rooms, with stunning mountain views, feature new equipment and floor trainers to help members maximize their workout. The fitness facility offers 11 personal trainers, 35 to 40 teachers and up to 130 classes a week.

Outdoors, there are swim classes in the Junior Olympic-size pool, U.S. Masters swim, aqua aerobics and swim team with the JCC Stingrays. Tennis features include six red sports-clay courts and a USPTA Pro 1 instructor. There are adult leagues in basketball, flag football, men’s softball, co-ed softball and co-ed volleyball, with racquetball and youth basketball in the gym.

Mara Aspinall

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Early Childhood Education Babies in six-seater buggies, toddlers on trikes and children singing, creating works of art and learning their ABCs – it’s all part of life at The J. About 300 children, ages 6 weeks through 5 years, are enrolled in early childhood education. For 32 years, The J has provided a safe, enriching environment for the youngest Tucsonans. “We are much more than a place

for children to learn,” said Wendy Edmonds, early childhood education codirector. “We are a community center. People become part of a larger family here. Kids talk about how their cribs were next to each other when they were babies. They meet in the infant room and they grow up to be lifelong friends.” The early childhood education center, with 19 classrooms, employs 60. “We have teachers who have been here for 25 years and teachers who are just starting their careers,” said Amy DeWitt, program co-director. “It’s a wonderful place for sharing ideas.” DeWitt and Edmonds said The J is “a great jumping-off point” for children. “We are preparing kids to be part of a classroom, kids who are ready to learn and excited to learn,” DeWitt said. “The variety of experiences children have at The J is enriching.” continued on page 78 >>>

Photos courtesy of the Tucson Jewish Community Center



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Cheers to The Tucson J “The thing I love about The J is it is multigenerational, interdenominational and multiracial. Everyone fits in at The J. There is something for everybody.” – Linda Tumarkin, Co-Chair, Tucson J Capital Campaign

“This renovation is the first real major change to the building in 25 years. It’s very exciting to see what we’re doing there. We have moved from a workout space to a wellness center. I see The J as being even more of a Tucson treasure than it already was.” – Barney Holtzman, Tucson J Board Chair & Managing Director, Fennemore Craig

“Our family supports the JCC because it gives back to the entire community the luck and good fortune we have had in Tucson. I see a big-time future for the JCC. The center is set. It’s well endowed, it has a history and the new facility is gorgeous. It’s got a life of its own now.” – Donald Diamond, Philanthropist & Chairman, Diamond Ventures

“Although the JCC has always been non-sectarian, during the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, it was almost exclusively used by the Jewish population of Tucson. Since the building of The J at River and Dodge and with the growth of facilities, programs and services, the JCC has become a wonderful melting pot of opportunity for all races and religions and is a genuine gem in our community.” – Mel Zuckerman, Philanthropist & Canyon Ranch Co-Founder

“I credit the large number of dedicated volunteers and staff who combined forces to bring the ideas, concepts and visions to reality. This partnership and untiring effort allowed The J to achieve not only the physical facility that we enjoy today, but to foster the mission of building communal harmony and serving the entire community, while still achieving the Jewish mission of perpetuating Jewish life and identity.” – Ken Light, Retired President & CEO, Tucson J

“I served on The J board for about 20 years until Ken Light approached me and said ‘Helaine, I just looked at our by-laws and I think you were supposed to complete your term about 14 years ago.’ It didn’t seem like so much as a service to The J, but more like following my desire to support an organization with an incredible facility and breadth of programming that fit my family’s passion and is open to the whole community. Everyone I know who has been involved in leadership or as a donor for as long as I remember chooses to stay connected to The J. That says something about the facility and organization.” – Helaine Levy, Philanthropist & Executive Director, Diamond Family Philanthropies

“The JCC is a Tucson treasure holding the community’s most precious assets – the people, young and old alike. From the laughter at the heated swimming pool to the squeals of joy at the splash park, or the determined faces of those exercising in the newly constructed fitness facility, members come ready to enjoy the many facets of the freshly renovated J. The future at The J holds the promise of innovation and programs, both creative and comprehensive, and most importantly, fun for the entire community.” – Richard Belkin, Former Chair, Tucson J Board

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continued from page 76 Summer Camp & After-School Programs Summertime means Camp J for many Tucson children. Swimming, cooking, dancing, more swimming, art, field trips, sports, theater, science and even more swimming are all part of camp. It’s the only American Camping Association accredited program in Tucson, following 350 standards of safety, said Scott Zorn, director of children, youth and family engagement. Also offered are winter and fall camps. “Our fantastic facility is what sets us apart,” Zorn said. Camp is inclusive, with special needs services available. “We are here to engage kids and make a difference in their lives,” Zorn said. “When you come to camp here, you leave with an experience you won’t forget.” The J also offers after-school programs. Vans pick up students at 23 different schools, providing a safe and engaging environment until parents pick them up. There is a homework program, arts and crafts, sports and enrichment classes. Older kids have the run of the place, playing basketball, billiards, computer games and pinball, with leadership opportunities. “It’s a cool hangout place,” Zorn said. Special Needs Services The J is a place for all, regardless of race, religion and ability. For years, The J has provided preschool and camp opportunities for children with special needs. “But once children aged out of school and summer programs, families had nowhere for their adult children to go,” said Kristin Taft, special needs services director. With support from interested families and a community advisory panel, The J created the Taglit Day Program in 2009. The program provides young adults with special needs an opportunity to maximize their potential. “We have a really diverse group of needs that we serve,” Taft said, includcontinued on page 80 >>>


Sports and Wellness Center

TUCSON JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER SBBL ARCHITECTURE + PLANNING Contact Thomas Sayler-Brown at 520.620.0255 e: tsb@sbbl.biz w: www.sbbl.biz 15 E. Pennington Street Tucson, AZ 85701


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“Bill and I love The J’s place in the community. We love our diverse community and we embrace The J’s outreach to all. The new fitness facility is the finest. The views are mesmerizing, and I relax the moment I step on a machine. It is our second home. We love having The J in our lives.” – Brenda Viner, Former Chair, Tucson J Board

“Our building is often cited by visitors and guests from around the world as one of the finest JCCs anywhere. When I first became active at the JCC in my 30s I had young children. Those children grew up using the JCC and now have their own children who use the JCC. It’s very rewarding to know that all the hard work by many community members has resulted in three generations of my family being able to enjoy the wonderful programs and facilities of the Tucson JCC.” – Randy Emerson, Former Chair, Tucson J Board & Partner/Designated Broker, GRE Partners

“The JCC means a multitude of things. For some it is their entrance into the Jewish community. For others it is their entire connection to the Jewish community that helps them maintain their Jewish identity. It has been my honor to volunteer for the JCC over the last 26 years. I feel I have gained way more than I ever have given back.” – Fran Katz, Former Chair, Tucson J Board & Director of Donor Services, University of Arizona Foundation

“In every sense of the word, the JCC is a beacon of the community, a true community center. We are very proud of it.” – Gerry Tumarkin, Former Chair, Tucson J Board

“The goal of our rehabilitation and expansion is to develop state-of-the-art practices for wellness and fitness, and address the young adult special needs population. This has been made possible by volunteers and donors throughout the Tucson Jewish and general community.” – Tom Warne, Immediate Past President, Tucson J

“We are honored by our ongoing partnership with and support from the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and the Jewish Community Foundation.” – Todd Rockoff, President & CEO, Tucson Jewish Community Center

Tucson JCC 3800 E. River Rd., Tucson AZ 85718 (520) 299-3000 I tucsonjcc.org 80 BizTucson


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continued from page 78 ing adults with Down syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy. The program serves 23 adults, with a long waiting list. With funding from the capital campaign, a new space is being built to accommodate the growing program. Participants make full use of the facilities at The J, and take part in volunteer work. “Everyone gets out in the community at least three times a week,” Taft said. “We volunteer at the library, we have a weekly karate class. We take part in wellness activities, fitness, swim and Special Olympics.” Thanks to a passionate staff and dedicated families, the program flourishes, Taft said. “We are able to look at each person and create a program just for them.” Arts & Culture A life without art and culture would be a dull one indeed. “Arts and culture provide people with a well-rounded experience,” said Lynn Davis, director of arts and culture at The J. “People think of us as a fitness and childcare center, but we make an important contribution to the arts and culture scene in Tucson.” While many of the art offerings explore the Jewish experience, all offer universal themes. “The Tucson International Jewish Film Festival is a prime example,” Davis said. “We offer films with Jewish content that provide a window into different cultures.” Art exhibits, concerts, seminars, lectures, interest groups and regular games of bridge and mah jongg are part of The J experience. The outdoor Sculpture Garden is an ideal spot to wander and relax, and serves as a unique event venue, Davis said. “It’s a lovely, tranquil spot in the middle of town with a view of the mountains, featuring sculpture from local, national and international artists.” The J also features a fine art gallery, “a wonderful, off-the-beaten-path spot on the Tucson arts scene,” Davis said.




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From left – Tucson J Board Chair Barney Holtzman and Tucson J President & CEO Todd Rockoff accept a gift from Arizona Diamondbacks President & CEO Derrick Hall, Shelley Duncan, manager of a Diamondbacks Single A team, and former D’Backs stars Luis Gonzalez and J.J. Putz, who are special assistants to Hall.

Diamondbacks Donate $76,000 to JCC By Steve Rivera Ken Light wasn’t much of a baseball fan, but he is one now. More specifically, he’s a BIG fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks, who were recently named by Forbes as the best organization to work for in sports, made a donation of $76,000 to the Tucson Jewish Community Center as part of its Grand Slam Award in mid-February. It was Light and his daughter who started the ball rolling to get the pivotal donation that led to adding a new and safe indoor play area at The J. “I think it’s terrific that they see a pri82 BizTucson


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ority in Southern Arizona,” said Light, retired president and CEO of The J. “I’ve always viewed them as the Arizona Diamondbacks and not the Phoenix Diamondbacks. The fact that they recognize that they are a statewide presence is reassuring. It’s nice to see them make inroads outside of the greater metro Phoenix area.” But that has always been the case. The D’Backs have contributed more than $42 million since the organization started in 1997. And the team takes pride in saying they’ve given more than all the pro teams in the state combined.

“Southern Arizona is certainly an important part of our history,” said Derrick Hall, president and CEO of the Diamondbacks. “We have a large fan base down here. And personally, it means a lot to me because my in-laws live here and my wife grew up here. The JCC has always been near and dear to our family.” Keeping the Diamondbacks’ brand in Southern Arizona and bringing it to The J is a priority, Diamondbacks officials said. More than $500,000 in school grants have been given, including a $100,000 gift to Gap Ministries. And www.BizTucson.com

in mid-February, Tucson-area Little League teams received new Diamondback jerseys worth more than $30,000. “When great organizations are looking for charitable support, we are very comprehensive at looking at the state,” said Debbie Castaldo, VP of corporate and community impact. “If the organization is good and they are making an impact, they are going to get the money.” The J was humbled by the gift. “It’s transformational for us,” said Todd Rockoff, president and CEO of the Tucson J. “It helped us get to the point where we knew we could build that indoor play space. The Diamondbacks’ organization is a strong brand. It means everything to us.” During the presentation and press conference, a number of children from The J sat listening to what was said and later were read books by Hall and J.J. Putz, the team’s all-time-saves leader. The children had studied the team in class the day before. “These guys are legends in the game and legends in our state,” Rockoff said. “And these are memorable moments.” Hall said he’d like to see more re-


quests from Southern Arizona organizations, and Castaldo said Hall’s motto of FAWTSY – find a way to say yes – comes true. “We do our best to take care of all the requests in some way,” she said. Diamondbacks officials said they have not forgotten their Southern Arizona fans – given they had their first spring

If the organization is good and they are making an impact, they are going to get the money.

– Debbie Castaldo VP of Corporate & Community Impact Arizona Diamondbacks

trainings here, starting in 1998. They already have a big Tucson connection – new manager Chip Hale is a former University of Arizona star. “The hiring of Chip Hale as manager has created a lot of pride in the UA community,” said Mike Feder, coordinator of Southern Arizona projects for the D’Backs. It just adds to the Tucson-Phoenix connection. “We have such a great history and ties here and a very strong fan base in Southern Arizona,” Hall said. “It’s important to communicate that and maintain that. Having left here is one of the toughest decisions we’ve ever had to make, but being down here just logistically wasn’t possible (with no other spring teams here). The community understands that (now). It was tough for me personally and selfish because I have my family here. I have a history here. “We do need a presence here and we have to have an impact on this community as positively as we can. We want people here to know our doors are open and our arms are open. We appreciate what they’ve done for us.”


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