JCC dedicates Berrie Complex
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JCC dedicates Berrie Complex

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At Sunday’s dedication are, from left, Avi A. Lewinson, JCC executive director; Edward A. Grossmann of the board of trustees; Robin Miller, JCC president; Angelica Berrie; Pearl Seiden, chair of the JCC capital campaign; and Norman Seiden of the board of trustees. Courtesy Kaplen JCC on the Palisades

The dedication Sunday of the Russ Berrie Family Health & Recreation Complex at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly marked a major milestone in JCC history.

In January 2007, the JCC launched a Gift of Community Capital and Endowment Campaign to support renovations and program enhancements. The Berrie Foundation gave the campaign a $2 million challenge grant, and the JCC has named its new fitness center in recognition of the Berrie family. The modern two-story facility features new exercise rooms, a spinning room, family changing suites with private facilities, new lockers, and an expansion of the JCC’s original fitness space to double its previous size, where members can take as many as 60 free group exercise classes each week.

The complex also houses the newly renovated Seiden Wellness Center, featuring adult-only locker suites with a wide range of spa amenities, including private nutritional and fitness consultations, massage, facials, reflexology, stress reduction workshops, private Pilates sessions, sports-specific training, and more.

“It is our honor and privilege to see this state-of-the-art facility named for the Berrie family,” said Pearl Seiden, the campaign chair. “It is particularly fitting that the Berrie trustees, in their infinite wisdom, chose to carry on Russ’s legacy here at the JCC…. Russ was an ardent supporter, board member, and benefactor for the JCC throughout his lifetime and he continued to give as our agency grew.”

In recognition of the center’s naming, Angelica Berrie, Russ Berrie’s widow, said, “I feel today’s message should be about the importance of building our community with the same fervor and spirit that drives us to fly off to New Orleans and Haiti, to bring the same urgency and resources that we contribute to other communities in need to our own federation, our JCCs and Ys, our Jewish Home, our JFS, and our local organizations and institutions that have equally compelling needs. We are strengthened by our sense of connection to our community and our sacred value of tikkun olam (repairing the world) begins with repairing the world right here, where we live. We can be a light unto the world, but let’s not forget our community.”

The complex is the first completed part of the JCC renovations. Still to come are a new front entrance, atrium, and lobby; a centralized, totally renovated Rubin Early Childhood Wing, which will feature many new classrooms, a child-friendly teaching kitchen and a pre-school library; a new Youth Center, including a new teen lounge; and a host of other projects.

“Our goal is to help people achieve healthier lifestyles and we are very pleased about our increased ability to meet the health and wellness needs of our community,” said Avi A. Lewinson, the JCC’s executive director.

“We are so thankful to our community for the support of our campaign, and to the Berrie family in particular, for enabling us to build such an unparalleled fitness facility,” added Robin Miller, the JCC president. “Membership is booming, our facilities are packed with hundreds of new members, and the energy and excitement about belonging to the JCC can be felt by everyone who enters our doors. This is very exciting and very encouraging. Our goal has been to build a stronger Jewish community and we are succeeding.”

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