Oshman Family JCC makes its long-awaited debut on new campus

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Visitors to the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center’s grand opening zigzagged their way through the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life in Palo Alto, catching a glimpse of nearly everything the new facility has to offer.

“It was such a feeling of celebration,” said Mimi Sells, chief marketing officer for the OFJCC. “People walked around with smiles on their faces. We were thrilled to be welcomed and thrilled that they had such a good time.” 

Throughout the all-day event Oct. 18, Sells estimated that around 4,000 people shuffled in and out of the JCC, with the majority congregating in the Jessica Lynn Saal Town Square. They were treated to performances from the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra Quartet, Jeff Sanford’s Big Band Jazz and Yiddish dance enthusiasts the Klezmakers, to name a few.

The smoky smells from barbecue hamburgers, hot dogs and shwarma wafted through the crowd; several people perched under towering palms to catch a bit of shade while eating.  

From the hub of the grand opening, people wandered the 8.5-acre campus, discovering its “treasures,” including the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Sports and Wellness Complex, which boasts an extensive gym, a sizeable lounge with a flat-screen television and exercise rooms where instructors offered free Pilates demonstrations.

Inside the Seiler Family Gymnasium, kids of all ages tested their skills at basketball and ga-ga, an Israeli game similar to dodgeball.

Larry Geller of Palo Alto helped his 5-year-old son Natan shoot hoops, and though he spent a good part of the day retrieving basketballs, Geller said he was excited to watch his son play with other children at the JCC.

 

Visitors gather for festivities in the courtyard. photo/amanda pazornik

“The kids are having a ball,” Geller said. “It’s great to have a Jewish place to come together. We’re staying [today] till they kick us out.”

 

Jane Stepak, who rode her bike to the event, stood by while massage therapist Troy Rensch offered free back rubs, giving people “a taste” of one of the amenities available at the fitness center, he said. And though she didn’t plan on getting a massage, Stepak, a JCC member, was eager to see the space for the first time.  

“I joined to support the community and be with the community,” she said. “It feels really good.”

Elsewhere, adults and children were given tours of the campus in English, Russian and Hebrew that highlighted the OFJCC’s educational, cultural and recreational programming improvements.

Sills said the day’s activities, including the tours and promotions, helped drive up membership sales.

“So many people walked away who will talk about us with their friends,” she said. “People worked so hard to make this happen and you could feel that in the air. It was an extraordinary outpouring of joy.”

There were also opportunities to participate in charitable projects, such as filling bins with winter coats for the less fortunate and tying knots to create fleece blankets for Project Linus, a volunteer nonprofit organization that gifts handmade blankets to ill children. 

Palo Alto resident Maria Lam brought her 7-year-old daughter, Rachel Loran for her Sunday swim practice. That quickly turned into a pool party with other children inside the indoor water park, complete with dancing and face painting. Rachel left with a glittery pink heart on her cheek.

“It’s beautiful,” Lam said of the JCC, “and adds a lot to this community.”