History of the J

Since 1949, the Stroum Jewish Community Center has provided a home to the Jewish community of greater Seattle.

The Seattle Jewish Community Center incorporates; Norman Davis serves as the first president.

The J purchases its first home, the Elks Building at 4th Avenue and Spring Street in downtown Seattle.

Eight acres of land on Mercer Island purchased as the site of the J’s new home.

Groundbreaking for Mercer Island campus. Leo Okin hired as the first executive director.

Mercer Island campus opens. Early Childhood School started with two teachers and 15 preschoolers.

Lenny Robinson hired as Executive Director.

Groundbreaking for building expansion, which added 47,000 square feet, including the Early Childhood School wing and auditorium. ECS registration expands to 100 children.

Holocaust memorial, designed by Mercer Island artist Gizel Berman, installed.

Barry Hantman hired as executive director. A financial crisis arises when the J is unable to meet its mortgage and construction loan payments. Sam Stroumz”l leads a successful $4 million fundraising campaign to save the J. The J’s name is changed to the Samuel and Althea Stroum Jewish Community Center of Greater Seattle.

Gary Pollak hired as Executive Director. North Seattle branch of SJCC Early Childhood School opens in part of Jane Addams School.

Seattle ECS moves to the basement of Congregation Beth Shalom when the Seattle School District needs the space at Jane Addams School.

First major fundraising event, The NOSH, is held.

Seattle ECS moves to its own building, converting a supermarket into 11,000 square feet of program space.

First Annual Morris J. Alhadeff Memorial Golf Tournament held.

Seattle and Mercer Island Board of Directors merge.

The SJCC hosts the JCC Maccabi Games, bringing 1,000 Jewish teenage athletes from around the world to participate.

Fitness wing of the Mercer Island campus is updated. Membership units increase from 1,000 to 1,400.

Adjacent DOT property (2.5 acres) purchased for $1.2 million for campus expansion.

ECS Mercer Island reaches enrollment capacity of 225. SJCC conducts a feasibility study for a strategic plan to support a community-wide campaign to expand and renovate Mercer Island facility, expand Seattle facility, create an endowment. Plans do not come to fruition.

Barry Sohn is hired as Executive Director.

Property lease with French American School of Puget Sound.

First Annual Circle of Friends Luncheon

Seattle ECS moves into new space at Temple Beth Am in North Seattle. ECS teaching staff grows to 50. SJCC full-time staff grows to 40; part-time/seasonal employees to 100. French American School lease amended with a 15-year extension to 2024. Strategic planning process, initiated in 2006, is completed with a new strategic plan approved by the Board of Directors. Board votes to proceed with $15 million capital and endowment campaign.

Judy Neuman hired as Chief Executive Officer.

Kesher Community Garden opens on land leased from the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center. SJCC also hires its first chief operating officer, Renee Cohen Goodwin.

Thanks to generous donors who collectively gave $5 million, the SJCC purchases the Kesher Community Garden land from WSHERC and prepares to renovate its auditorium and gathering spaces. Board of Directors creates a list of seven Core Values for the J. SJCC brings the Seattle Jewish Film Festival under its wings.

Renovation begins on the auditorium and community gathering space. SJCC Summer Camp enrollment exceeds 900 campers at two locations.

SJCC unveils its newly renovated, state-of-the-art auditorium and community gathering spaces.

Strategic plan operationalized.

SJCC Early Childhood School in North Seattle becomes a program of Temple Beth Am, called SEED; fitness equipment upgrades with new digital displays; CEO Judy Neuman retires; Amy Lavin hired as new CEO.

Remodels completed on two sets of bathrooms; strategic plan approved to guide the J through the next several years. Inaugural SeaJAM Festival of Jewish Arts + Music launched in December.

SJCC celebrates its 50th anniversary on Mercer Island and 70th in greater Seattle. Circle of Friends Luncheon replaced with Diamonds, Denim & Dice fundraiser. An expanded SeaJAM Festival returns for its second year in September.