In 1929, a few months before the world-wide depression struck millions, a little unnoticed event unfolded in the city of Yonkers. After two years of planning, the Jewish Community Center Committee of the Jewish Federation of Yonkers opened its center doors to local officials and hundreds of Jewish families celebrating its grand opening. The JCC was born. For the next 62 years the JCC remained a core part of the Yonkers Jewish community that by the 1960s had reached a population of 30,000.
In 1986, the Center’s leadership witnessed first hand the population shifts occurring in Yonkers. It was then that they decided to open their first store front on Main Street in Dobbs Ferry to meet, what they believed at the time was, a young growing Jewish community. From 1986 to 1993, the store fronts moved from Dobbs Ferry to Ardsley, coupled with numerous other sites at synagogues, public schools and two local churches. The “JCC without walls” gained unusual support from a young Jewish community longing for Jewish connections and traditions. One Purim Carnival, held at the Ardsley Middle School, attracted over 750 individuals and 60 volunteers all seeking to give the river towns Jewish community a sense of connection and permanence.
In 1995, our current site in Tarrytown was born, because we all believed that a permanent site could serve as an anchor for young families coming to the river towns. Fast forward 20 years, the JCC is on the precipice of opening a new, full-service facility. The UJA-Federation Jewish Communal Population Study of 2011 confirmed that the river town’s Jewish community is the fastest growing Jewish community (+19%) in Westchester.
Throughout our 85 year history the JCC mission and purpose has evolved as well. In the beginning it was a haven for the Jewish community, to meet, learn and share at a time when other doors were closed. Today, the JCC continues to provide the Jewish community with a cultural anchor while providing the total community with the programs and services that have met and continue to meet their changing needs. The JCC’s relevance is as powerful today as it was on that sunny day in June 1929. When a parent recently came late to pick up her child from our after school program, knowing full well that her child was safe at the JCC, she shared, “What would I do without the JCC?” It is a sentiment shared by many.