As the Rosen Jewish Community Center reflects on its 10th anniversary in the southwest Orlando community, its members are both celebrating the past and eagerly anticipating what’s in store.
And on Thursday, Oct. 24, they had the chance to do both while hosting the JCC’s Building Our Future 10th anniversary event.
In order to look toward the future, said Rosen JCC CEO Dr. Reuben Romirowsky, it’s important to first recognize the roots and how much the JCC has grown in just 10 years. Before sharing plans for the JCC’s next 10 years and beyond, Romirowsky, staff and volunteers took some time to reflect on the last decade and to honor its earliest stakeholders.
Much of what the JCC has become today is credited to Harris Rosen — the president, founder and CEO of Rosen Hotels & Resorts. Not only is he a businessman and investor, he also focuses heavily on philanthropy and making a difference in the Central Florida community at large. Rosen pledged $3.5 million for the JCC’s first phase of construction and named the campus after his parents, Jack and Lee Rosen.
Rosen’s handprint on the JCC continues in his ongoing support for and involvement in shaping what it has become, and it’s why the staff created and presented him with the inaugural Community Builder Award.
“Harris is a man of profound character, whose commitment to building a better community comes from a core value that with privilege comes responsibility,” Romirowsky said. “Everything that Harris does flows from this central tenet. … All of this stems from the central values he learned from his family of the importance of building a community that enhances the lives of everyday people. Our foundation was built off the name and value system of Mr. Rosen and his family.”
The JCC community chose to honor Rosen with the very same thing he honors the most — building community. The inaugural Community Builder Award will be called the Rosen Community Builder Award moving forward, and it will be given only to worthy recipients who uphold Rosen’s values.
The JCC’s origins date back to 1994, when the Roth Family Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando established the early childhood learning center on property belonging to the Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation.
Sixteen years ago, talks of constructing a stand-alone Jewish community center began with community meetings and a group of steadfast parents and volunteers dedicated to making the building a reality. One of these parents, Aileen Schaked, spoke of how pivotal — and emotional — the groundbreaking and construction of the building was after all the advocating done to bring it to fruition.
“Our community built this building, but the building built the community,” Schaked said. “When you walk down the corridors of the JCC anywhere, you might not see it, you might feel it, there is magic in those walls. There is love and sweat and passion and purpose and a lot of hope and prayer in those walls.”
The JCC opened its doors in August 2009 as the Jack & Lee Rosen Southwest Orlando Campus, a full-service satellite of the Roth Family JCC. And in June 2015, the Harris Rosen Foundation purchased the campus, which has since operated independently as the Rosen JCC.
As much as the community and the JCC have grown in the last decade, there is still more to come. Romirowsky officially announced the Rosen JCC Town Square concept plans, described as a unifying force to better serve the diverse lifecycle needs of families living in Orlando.
“Our newly launched Town Square concept envisions an array of new programs and service offerings, thereby creating what I hope to be an investment culture at the JCC which is far more powerful than a transactional culture that traditional ‘membership’ is associated with,” he said.
The foundation of this plan is securing the right nonprofit and business partners whose missions are aligned with those of the JCC and who are willing to collaborate in the shared construction of an emerging community. The Town Square concept is a rebranding of sorts and involves new construction behind the existing JCC building.
The concept is in its early stages but aspires to expand on the JCC’s current offerings while becoming the hub of the community, offering various lectures, panel discussions, family programs, health and wellness programs, Jewish programming and more. The five tenets include fine arts and culture, family life, health and wellness, Jewish life, and community and inclusion.
“We want the JCC to be the central portal for our local neighborhoods and schools so that our campus resources are … benefitting the community and not just our membership,” Romirowsky said. “That is why our enhanced footprint includes a new splash pad, a teaching pool as part of the early childhood learning center curriculum, and the potential for an Olympic-sized pool for the high school being built literally across the street to use for their after-school programming.
“Each of the elements and more will create synergies between and amongst our partners, drive new revenue streams and build a greater sense of community,” he said. “We need to grow, not just for the sake of being bigger, but because there’s so much more to do. Our JCC is quite literally the geocenter for growth, with abundant opportunity simply awaiting us to achieve.”
When asked what his long-term vision for the JCC was, Rosen said that it was to continue doing what it already has been doing — welcoming the community and valuing diversity, despite being known as a Jewish community center.
“I think we’re off to a really good start,” Rosen said. “What I’m so proud of is that we’re welcoming. We cherish others, whether they’re the same religion, different religion, different ethnicity, different cultures, we value them. We love them. We honor them. And I think that’s what I would like us to continue doing.
“Of course it’s nice that the J is doing well, it’s nice that we’re receiving support from so many individuals, not only monetary support but hands-on support — without that we would not survive,” he said. “I just hope that people who work here, people who come here to visit, to spend time here, feel comfortable and feel loved.”