It’s not easy to find a community center that truly caters to every element that an individual or family is looking for. Some offer only fitness, others have programs for children, but not their parents. The Katz JCC (Jewish Community Center) in Cherry Hill set out to be more than that, and has exceeded its goals to provide the full gamut of services, including social, educational, recreational and wellness programs for all ages.
According to Debbie Orel, JCC’s director of membership and marketing, the JCC is unique in that it provides all of these programs under one roof. “It was important to us to make the JCC a genuinely family-centered facility,” she says. The JCC has members ranging in age from infants to children and teens, active adults to the frail elderly, and individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities. “Moms can bring in their child for swimming lessons and take an aerobics class at the same time, and grandma can even come along and take one of our education classes. There’s no need to drop your child off and go somewhere else for your own programming.”
The list of amenities at the JCC proves how all encompassing it is. Orel says the JCC houses two indoor pools, two outdoor pools, four group wellness rooms, a state-of-the-art fitness center with cardio and strength training equipment, two full-size gymnasiums, a 16-room early childhood learning center, lounges for teens and adults, a kosher café, a physical therapy facility, library and more. She adds that having both a basketball court and swimming pools—two sought-after requests in fitness centers—is really unique.
Everyone regardless of their age or ability can take advantage of various wellness programs for a healthy lifestyle. There is a nutritionist on staff and a monthly educational series on healthy eating. “Parents want their children to have a solid foundation of healthy habits,” Orel says. “We also offer programs for pregnant women, like prenatal yoga classes, and as children grow, we have parent-child swimming classes, and sports enrichment classes like gymnastics and leagues for soccer and basketball,” says Orel.
For teens and adults, in addition to the fitness center there are more than 120 free group classes a week such as spin, yoga, BodyPump, Pilates and water aerobics. Through the JCC’s ACHaD (Achieving Community Hopes and Dreams) special needs department, there is also a basketball and swim team for children and teens with special needs.
The JCC offers so much more than wellness and fitness programs. The JCC is well-known for its two-day camp programs, Early Childhood Camps at the Katz JCC for campers ages 2-5, and JCC Camps at Medford for ages 3-14. Opportunities for education and recreation abound. The Sari Isdaner Early Childhood Center, an NAEYC-accredited childcare program, provides full-day infant and toddler care as well as full-day and half-day pre-school and kindergarten in a secure, state-of-the-art facility. Orel says, “An outstanding and loving staff focuses on your child’s well-being while providing a developmentally appropriate and enriching curriculum.”
The JCC’s Just 4 Kids After-School Program, for K-sixth grades, offers enriching activities such as homework help, cooking and computer lab, as well as access to the basketball courts, swimming pools, and the Imaginarium (indoor climbing structure). There are also Vacation Day Programs where kids can have fun when schools are closed. “We’re providing families a wonderful, safe place, particularly for working parents to know their children are cared for,” says Orel.
Adults have their opportunity to learn, as well. The year-long Saltzman Foundation Life Long Learning Institute provides more than 6,000 adults with opportunities to expand their knowledge and meet new friends. Courses are offered at the college level, taught by area professors in subjects like archeology, current events, movies and art. Adults older than 60 have many social activities, as well. There are singles’ and couples’ clubs, discussion groups, arm chair aerobics and a daily hot kosher lunch. “The lunch we provide is more than food; it’s companionship and socializing,” Orel says. “For many who live alone, it’s their only social interaction of the day.”
Orel says there are programs open to the community, while certain programs and activities do require membership. “We really do offer something for everyone,” says Orel. “And we’re not just for those living in Cherry Hill; our reach is far, encompassing the Greater Philadelphia area.” She adds that many of the JCC’s events attract thousands of people. Some of those events include a 5K race, an arts, books and culture festival, Jewish film festival, Purim Carnival and Chanukah celebration, to name a few.
“The JCC is an incredible value for the whole family,” Orel continues. “You may join for your health originally, but the average member is involved in so many programs.”
She adds, “Even though we’re a Jewish center and we do promote Jewish values, we’re open to all. I think the larger message is that we promote family values. We welcome everyone to come tour our facilities and see how the JCC can enrich their lives.”
1301 Springdale Road
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 9 December, 2013).
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