As summer heats up in Cincinnati, activity at the Mayerson JCC is getting just as hot. Most days, families, friends, and coworkers fill the tables of the J Cafe during lunchtime. Campers run and play on the back ball fields. Kids enjoy swim lessons—or just splashing around—in the outdoor pool. And the 60 & Better Center is open again for in-person programming.
“It feels good to walk into the building every day and feel the renewed energy and activity,” said CEO Marc Fisher. “We have always been the place that connects people so that they can live happier and fuller lives, creating a more vibrant Jewish community. We worked really hard to continue doing that virtually during the pandemic, and safely with social distancing in person, but there is something reinvigorating about seeing people begin to gather together again on campus.”
Camp at the J
“Every June when Camp at the J starts, there is a huge boost of energy and excitement—not to mention more people coming through our doors,” said Lauren Glynn, Director of Camp and Extended Care. “But this summer, it feels even more special. There are some campers who went to school remotely most or all of the school year and haven’t been able to interact much with other kids. It is a pleasure to be able to help them reconnect with old friends and meet new ones, and to just be kids again.”
Camp at the J is already full for the whole summer, which means 120 campers will attend each week, for a total of more than 200 unique campers throughout the summer. That is up from an average of 72 campers per week in 2020, and just 99 unique campers. Camp at the J brought back its advocate program this year, enabling them to serve 10 campers with diagnoses this summer.
Summer After Crew is back this year, and at full capacity. They were unable to offer this camp extension last year, but now 50 campers are enrolled in the program each week.
In addition, special activities are back on the schedule. They held their first chalk art festival, and campers loved it so much, they plan to make it an annual event. And in keeping with camp tradition, everyone will gather again this summer for all camp shabbat.
The Aquatic Center at the J was busy in the spring, with many swimmers taking lessons. Over the last two sessions, more than 50 kids were enrolled in group classes. This spring, 30 of the J’s Early Childhood School (ECS) students took weekly lessons each week. That group has expanded to 65 ECS students this summer, who are all taking lessons Monday through Thursday each week. Between private and group lessons this spring, about 90 kids were in the pool each week, all learning how to swim.
Membership & Fitness
After a tough year for membership at the J, hundreds of new individuals and families are coming back or joining for the first time.
“The last few weeks have been amazing because I have seen at least ten people per week who are back at the J for the first time since COVID broke out in March 2020,” said Donne Kalb, General Manager of Fitness and Operations. “Seeing all the people working out in the fitness center, enjoying the pools, and attending lunch or programs at the 60 & Better Center is a clear indication of our membership growth. And members are telling us how nice it is to be back.”
Since the beginning of the year, the J has added more than 400 new membership units, and more people are using their services. Personal training and pilates sessions have increased 20 percent since January. Spa services have increased by 30 percent in the same timeframe. And the J has added 17 new group exercise classes per week since the beginning of the year.
There is summer fun for people of all ages at the J. In July, families can enjoy an evening out of the house and around the campfire, singing songs, making s’mores, and playing games. Or they can have some fun splashing around at the Summit Park nature scape then taking a break for a sweet, cool treat.
This summer, young adults have started gathering together at the J’s Happy Hour events, taking place at a different, new bar in Cincinnati each month. Friends old and new have been able to connect with each other at these events.
“And we’re looking forward to even more exciting programming this fall,” said Director of Programming Holly Wolfson. “From our Fall Market to the Under One Roof art exhibit in our sukkah, to the Oy Vey 5K, there is a way for everyone in our community to re-engage in community life.”
60 & Better Center
Perhaps no area of the JCC was impacted more significantly for a longer period of time than the 60 & Better Center. Because older adults are at greatest risk for severe symptoms and complications from COVID-19, all programming has been done remotely since March 2020. However, with restrictions from the Governor of Ohio being lifted as of June 1, a high percentage of seniors being vaccinated, and warm weather allowing outdoor activities, in-person programming has resumed.
Fifty people attended the Mother’s Day concert in the large tent in front of the J, and 70 came for a recent ice cream social.
“We have some type of in-person programming every day, and we are adding more each week,” said Director of Senior Adult Services Susan Bradley-Meyer. “We are seeing more and new clients every day.”
Tai Chi and Fit for Life classes typically have 10 to 20 people in attendance. Congregate meals are now being offered on weekdays and draw about the same crowd, but have doubled in the last few weeks. Book club is beginning to meet in-person again, and Chess and Mahj Jongg players are starting to meet up for some friendly competition.
Field trips will be starting back up in July and August, with trips planned to ride on the B&B Riverboats and take a Newport Mafia tour with lunch at the Hofbrauhaus.
“It is great to see everyone back at the J,” Bradley-Meyer said. “We missed everyone and all of their energy.”