Sunday, March 21, the Shirley and Leonard Goldstein Community Venue was the stage for an official celebration of our Campus Transformation. The event came complete with a ribbon cutting. Tom and Darlynn Fellman, Don Goldstein, Marsha and Milton Kleinberg, Howard Kooper, Nancy and Joel Schlessinger and Michael Staenberg wielded the scissors in celebration of our renovated Staenberg Kooper Fellman Campus. Those who were not able to join for brunch in-person joined virtually. The event required masks, and social distancing was observed.
“It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm and joy of those attending in viewing the near completion of the JCC renovation,” Don Goldstein said. “It was the first opportunity for many to see the improvements and to envision the endless possibilities of the remodeled spaces.”
Jewish Federation of Omaha CEO Alan Potash began the event by saying the campus transformation “is not just about the campus, but about the overall impact it will have for our community.”
Potash thanked the donors and said: “There are new additions being made every day and we are busy working on the exhibits that will be in the Milton Mendel & Marsha Kleinberg Hall of History, Blumkin Institute of Holocaust Education Exhibit and the Riekes Museum. We look forward to sharing this building with generations to come.”
Mark Martin, Executive Director of the Staenberg JCC shared some of the many ways our campus is being used: “Just today, we have a pickleball tournament, play practice, an OYO practice in our new theater, spin class, yoga class, water fitness class, boot camp and so much more. The final product is more than I ever could have imagined from my first talk with Michael Staenberg in 2014. Thank you, Michael, for pushing us to think big. Thank you to all of you, because we could not have done it without you.”
Michael Staenberg spoke about what it means to give, and why he does it—as well as why it is important to not give alone, but to inspire other donors to join. “My father taught me we weren’t a 10 percent family,” he said, “we were a 20 percent giver. We always have to give more and do more.”
Staenberg also emotionally shared that while a teenager, his father unexpectedly passed away and the JCC became his home away from home. He developed life-long friendships at the J and was embraced by many adults in the community, like the late “Uncle” Chuck Arnold, who provided him with guidance and mentoring. He encountered similar experiences at the JCC’s in Kansas City and St. Louis as he embarked on his career.
Doron Krakow, President and CEO of the JCC Association of North America, prerecorded a message to share with those in attendance:
“I want to thank Michael Staenberg,” he said, “whose passionate commitment to his roots in the Jewish community, in particular the world of Jewish Community Centers, whose vision and philanthropy has brought beauty and practicality, achievement and opportunity to a growing number of JCCs. Thank you for honoring us once again.”
One of the most touching moments came when Milton Kleinberg took the stage and shared a few words with those in attendance.
“In 1984, I first came to Omaha from Milwaukee to look for business opportunities,” he said. “The first place I went was the JCC. I walked in and said, wow, this is a great place. When I came home to my wife, I told her if I could find the opportunity to do business in Omaha, that’s where I wanted to be. For several years, I drove back and forth between Milwaukee and Omaha. It was 550 miles; I’d go home Friday afternoon and come back Sunday night. This place (the JCC) saved my sanity. About 32 years ago, our daughter made Aliyah and I told Marsha we needed to move to Omaha. That’s when I stopped traveling back and forth. I was born overseas, but nowadays, when people ask me where I’m from, I tell them right away: Omaha is my home. This is a wonderful community and nothing can make me move.”
On so many levels, in so many different ways, Omaha’s JCC is fresh, new and exciting. With all the physical changes, however, the soul and sense of community at OUR J remains a constant. If you have yet to see the facilities, a visit is highly recommended! Our future absolutely is now and we invite everyone to be a part of it!