A little research. That’s what inspired Sarah Paxton to visit the Weinstein Jewish Community Center while looking for a preschool for her son. “I really liked their child-centered style of learning and strong focus on outdoor education and nature exploration,” Sarah recalled. “I also found children raised Jewish and children of other faiths together, using all that the JCC has to offer. That made me more excited for him to become part of the community.”
As a young mom, Sarah also sought community herself. She found the social interaction she craved while working out in the fitness center. In recent years, she was unexpectedly inspired once again, this time to pursue training as a fitness instructor. Before long, Sarah began teaching her own group classes at the center. “It was a great progression for me, and I don’t think it would have ever happened without the JCC.”
Seven years later, the Paxton family, now with three young boys, remains active and passionate about the center. Though Sarah’s husband, Matt, is super busy as an extreme cleaning specialist on Hoarders, a popular A&E television show, he joins his family at the JCC whenever he can.
“It’s like our second home,” said Sarah. “A place where we can come together, not only for education, not only for fitness, but also to play and have fun with friends and other families.”
Like the Paxtons, more than 8,000 Richmonders currently enjoy the Weinstein JCC, thanks to a movement that began in 1941. Jewish residents wanted to build a Jewish community center, and interest accelerated following the war. The first center opened on Idlewood Avenue in 1946, with about 300 Jewish members. Within three years, membership was expanded to the community as a whole, regardless of religious affiliation, race, age, or demographic. The nonprofit moved to its current Monument Avenue location in 1959, and has since added an early childhood wing, auditorium, cafe, and a state-of-the-art fitness facility that includes a lap pool and a salt-water rec pool with a waterslide and lazy river.
In Goochland County, the JCC purchased and transformed one hundred acres into another community offering, Camp Hilbert. At this summer day
camp, kids discover the great outdoors, experience adventure through archery and canoeing, and explore creativity through drama, music, and crafts.
Today, the comprehensive campus known as the Carole and Marcus Weinstein Jewish Community Center remains dedicated to the well-being of the Richmond and Jewish communities through personal, cultural, social, and physical enrichment.
“For more than seventy years, this organization has positively impacted RVA in significant ways,” said Jay Jacobs, Weinstein JCC chief executive officer. “We’re a network of caring people with exceptional programs and facilities, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to help people each and every day.”
This year’s Patrons of the Arts cultural program is expected to entertain and educate more than 5,000 people, with special performances featuring partnerships with the Richmond Symphony, James River Writers, and the Virginia Historical Society. “In addition to welcoming all faiths, the early childhood program focuses on inclusiveness that welcomes children of all abilities,” Jacobs said. “Even the fitness center serves a cross-section of the RVA community, with all ages and abilities working out to improve their wellness in a comfortable environment.”
The impact of the Weinstein JCC extends even further, through designated funds that support Richmonders struggling with financial burdens. Last year alone, more than $200,000 in scholarship funding was made available to local children, adults, and families in need.
“The Weinstein JCC’s positive influence extends beyond our membership,” Jacobs added. “We are committed to the well-being of the entire Richmond community.”