Before the campus opened at 450 West Nyack Rd., most Jewish organizations that serve the liberally religious segment of the Rockland community were housed in a former 26,000-square-foot former medical building on Route 45. Prior to that, the JCC, the Jewish Federation, and Rockland Jewish Family Service had wandered without a permanent home.
Community leaders wanted to put an end to that, as those organizations, particularly the JCC, quickly outgrew the Route 45 location. When they launched a capital campaign to build a Jewish “home” for the community in 2005, they wanted to create a sense of both permanence and pride.
“Obviously, things were booming at the time all around us, and the JCC was outgrowing its space,” said Brenda Lender, who recalled driving through the cavernous building on the new campus in a golf cart, amazed at the huge space.
Lender was president of the JCC when the campus was renovated and during the bulk of the fundraising for it. She now serves as president of the Rockland Jewish Academy’s board of directors. The move to the campus was the right one at the time, she said. No one then had a crystal ball that would foresee the closing of Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School in 2012, but the presence of the campus, with space available for a school, enabled the RJA to find a home.
“If there wasn’t a campus, a new day school couldn’t have happened,” said Lender. “There is a warm synergy in the campus. We are really comfortable and we have our eye on small growth. The move there was seamless.”
Other organizations in the building have seen their profile heighten since the move from Route 45.
The federation’s Super Sunday last year took place in the social hall, with balloons and a visibility to all who walked in the building that it never had before. Its Florence Melton Adult Mini School classes are held there. Jewish Family Service, which has a separate entrance, serves a growing clientele and offers more programs now than it was able to before, according to Maria Dowling, the RJFS chief executive officer.
One example is how RJFS was able to create its Total Teen Experience program for high-functioning Asperger’s teenagers. The program works well in the campus setting, she said. The teens are placed in jobs with the other Jewish organizations in the building, yet are overseen by the nearby RJFS staff.
“I think being affiliated with the campus has only been good for Rockland Jewish Family Service,” she said. “It’s definitely a central community space and we have more exposure.”