By Erika Farr
As soon as you walk into the Martin Pear JCC (The J), located on the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus (12701 N. Scottsdale Road), it is clear that serving their members and the greater Scottsdale community is at the heart of everything they do. From the smiling faces at the membership desk to the state-of-the-art aquatics center, staffed with highly trained lifeguards and swim coaches, and the enriching environment of Shemesh and Kochavim Camp, The J is and has always been equipped to serve the needs of the entire family.
In spite of the uncertainty and challenges presented during COVID-19, this has not changed. In response to the increased restrictions and shutdowns, leadership at The J introduced a variety of policy changes to ensure that The J continues to be a safe place for members and the community.
“From the beginning, we took an attitude that it’s about what we can do, not about what we can’t,” says Jay Jacobs, CEO of the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus and The Martin Pear JCC. “The goal was to create an environment people felt safe walking into.” To do this, Christine Hutchinson, the facilities director, with the assistance of a medical task force, created a re-opening plan and training program for staff to ensure all protocols and rules are adhered to.
As part of this plan, when you enter The J, you will find that ninety percent of the campus’ walkways move in one direction. This is to limit interactions and keep foot traffic flowing. In addition to the regular cleaning crew, The J also hired a full-time team to sanitize the campus’ doorknobs, railings, counters, sinks, bathrooms, and more. Temperature checks are mandatory for anyone wishing to enter, and signage reminds people with symptoms not to enter the facility. The J selected each safety protocol to create an environment in which members feel safe. According to members like Shari, it is working. “The staff couldn’t be better equipped to handle the ‘new normal’ of welcoming us and making sure we are safe during this particular time and all with smiling faces…I am happy to be back in this wonderful, safe environment,” Shari says.
In addition to increasing member safety, these new protocols have allowed staff at The J to reconnect with members on a personal level. According to the CEO, despite increased restrictions, the team at The J found a way to see the positive in what could be viewed as a negative situation. “Things are far from how they used to be, but it’s not all bad,” Jacobs says. For example, taking visitors’ temperatures at the entrance “has reminded us how important it is to greet people when they walk into the building. We’ll definitely continue member greeting once the COVID-19 crisis is behind us.”
Along with the new safety protocols, The J has introduced numerous virtual and outdoor fitness programming options to continue to bring value to members and the community. Before the closure, The J provided a variety of in-building fitness activities for members such as Pilates, Yoga, BurnFit, and Parkinson’s PWR!Moves™. To safely bring members quality fitness programs, The J introduced the J at Home virtual platform. Updated once a week, the J at Home virtual platform provides access to a variety of cultural, learning, and fitness programs like the Parkinson’s Warrior Express class. Perry, a J member with Parkinson’s, shares, “I did the Warrior Express class on J at Home. It was a great workout, and the instructors were very explicit with directions and made sure we were safe…thanks for thinking of us.”
In addition to their virtual fitness programing, The J recently introduced an outdoor fitness area. This area allows members to continue to utilize cardio, free weight, and strength equipment while maintaining distance and practicing safety protocols. “In uncertain times like this, it is important to preserve a sense of normalcy whenever possible. For many of our members, retaining a health and fitness routine is important to maintaining their sense of normalcy. To accommodate these members, we created The J outdoor fitness facility and introduced outdoor fitness classes,” says Lauren Berczynski, fitness director at The J.
The sincere drive to serve members and an innovative approach to problem-solving demonstrated by the outdoor fitness area and is also witnessed by a strong summer program with Shemesh and Kochavim Camp. Before the pandemic, the campus saw some 3,000 to 3,500 people per day. Today it serves about 1,000 daily, including kids at the Shemesh Camp at The J. Unlike regular summers, there were no field trips this year. But, that doesn’t mean the summer was any less memorable. The limitations forced staff and counselors to get creative, come up with activities on the sprawling campus, and go “back to the basics” of traditional day camps. With all the necessary changes, the staff at the Shemesh Camp was still able to create a fun and enriching experience for children in the Scottsdale community. Lindsay, one J member, says, “We are delighted we found The J and this amazing camp for our kids. The J exceeded our expectations, and we are so appreciative of all the communication we have always received. They are doing a fabulous job.”
Now that some restrictions are lifting throughout Scottsdale and the state of Arizona, the leadership team at The J continues to look for creative ways to support their members and the Scottsdale community. This fall, The J introduced their latest youth program, Club J All Day. Club J All Day is designed for children ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade and intends to help parents fill the gap until students transition back to in-person learning. “It is an honor to provide Club J All Day as a solution for parents in this current climate of canceled events and delayed in-person school starts,” says Kim Subrin, COO at The J. She shares, “This program allows us to not only serve our community in providing high-quality child supervision and online learning support, but it also gives us the ability to hire educators and other individuals who were impacted by the pandemic.”
In addition to Club J All Day, this fall, The J will introduce the J-Force elite swim team. Coached by Brian Hoffer, this team is open to youth ages 14 and up who intend to grow stronger in and out of the water. Debbie Meeks, J aquatics director, says, “J Aquatics is happy to bring Brian Hoffer onboard our amazing coaching staff. Our program seeks to offer experienced, high-quality swim coaching to our community. With Coach Hoffer onboard, we now have three highly-qualified coaches running our J Swim Club program. The swimmers in our program have access to some of the most forward-thinking and talented coaches in the industry.”
Although Club J All Day and J-Force are only a couple of examples of how The J is working to support the community in the months ahead, it is clear that The J is here for the Scottsdale community – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Though they have had to pivot, as all other businesses and organizations have during this time, The J will remain a core provider of in-building, on campus, and virtual programs and services, and will ultimately continue to be a source of support for the people of Scottsdale.
If you’d like more information, inquire at the membership desk, call 480-634-4909, or visit the J online at vosjcc.org.