The History of the Stamford JCC
On May 24, 1916, 26 local families, united by a common vision, came together under the laws of our state to form the Stamford Hebrew Institute, Inc. By and large, these were simple people of humble means … they were tailors and teachers, they were carpenters and craftsmen. Yet they were driven by a deep-seeded desire to create a safe haven, free from discrimination—a second home for the Jewish Community, where they could share common values and school their children in the Hebrew language and culture.
This was a bold undertaking in 1916, in the middle of World War I and amidst growing anti-Semitism in Germany. The formation of The Stamford Hebrew Institute (now our Stamford Jewish Community Center) was not only forward-thinking and without precedent, but brave, unselfish, and an undeniably critical element in the building of our community’s genetic code. If not for the sacrifice and foresight of the 26 original families, Stamford today would be very different indeed.
On the occasion of our hundred-year anniversary, we continue to work to ensure that our JCC moves forward with us, to build upon our success for the next generation. As was the guiding principle of the original 26 founding families, the JCC continues to serve as the second home for Stamford’s Jewish community, providing a safe and welcoming environment.
As we begin this watershed year in the life of the Stamford Jewish Community Center, we invite you to join us in celebrating our history, embracing our core values and re-affirming our mission.
An abbreviated history of The J …
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1916 — 26 Stamford families come together to found the Hebrew Institute, which will later become the Jewish Community Center of Stamford. Agudath Sholom, then Stamford’s only synagogue, gives the group meeting space in its basement on Greyrock Place.
1928 — The cornerstone is laid for the new Prospect Street home of the Hebrew Institute. It will be the first building to serve an entire Jewish community in all of New England.
1930 — The new building on Prospect Street is completed. The Hebrew Institute changes its name to the Stamford Jewish Center.
1973 — The JCC outgrows its home on Prospect Street. The 14-acre Nyselius property on Newfield Avenue is purchased as the future home of the JCC.
1976 — The Prospect Street building and the Briar Brae Road campgrounds are sold. The Jewish Center opens offices in the old Nyselius mansion, and the JCC is renamed The Center of the Jewish Community. For 5 years, the JCC operates as a “Center without walls” at nearly 20 locations around Stamford.
1978 — The official groundbreaking ceremony for the new building on Newfield Avenue. Also in 1978, Tzahal Shalom comes to Stamford for the first time. It is currently the longest-running program of its kind in the country.
1979 — The Jewish Center Women’s Auxiliary changes its name to The Center Women of the JCC. The Center Women host their first annual Gift Mart.
1980 — Construction begins on Newfield Avenue.
1981 — The JCC is formally dedicated on September 20, and opens the doors to its new home.
1982 — The JCC renegotiates its mortgage, and raises $5 million in 90 days to keep its doors open. The building is named for William & Sally Tandet after the Tandet family donates $1 million to the cause.
1985 — The first Harold E. Hoffman Humanitarian Award is presented to Burton D. Hoffman.
The first POSH fundraising event is held in support of JCC programs for Senior Adults.
1988 — SummerPlace comes to the JCC. The summer day program for children was renamed O-la-mi in 2009.
1991 — KinderPlace opens (originally called the Child Development Center). It is Stamford’s first full-day, year-round child care center. JCC Nursery School Director Sara Walker retires and the school is renamed in her honor. The first annual JCC Purim Carnival is held. The JCC’s first endowment funds are established to support rapidly expanding programs and services.
1992 — Acting on the results of a comprehensive customer satisfaction survey, planning begins for the construction of an expanded fitness center.
1994 — The new Julius B. Kuriansky Fitness Center opens.
1998 — The “Renewal 2000” Capital Campaign raises more than $2 million in less than one year to fund repair and rejuvenation of the building.
2001 — The JCC’s Jewish Film Festival of Lower Fairfield County debuts (in 2008 it is renamed the Jewish Arts & Film Festival of Fairfield County).
2004 — Expansion, renovation and modernization of the Julius B. Kuriansky Fitness Center is completed. JumpStart moves to its new home at the JCC.
2006 — The JCC Maccabi Games are held in Stamford for the first time.
2010 — The capital campaign “Celebrating Our Past … Transforming Our Future” raises more than $4 million for much-needed infrastructure improvements to the 30-year-old building.
2016 — The JCC Celebrates its 100th anniversary. The Centennial Campaign is launched. The JCC will host the JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest from August 7-12.