Levite Jewish Community Center

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The Levite Jewish Community Center (LJCC) is a social, cultural and recreational organization for Birmingham's Jewish community, but opened to the entire community. The center occupies a 70-acre site at 3960 Montclair Road and serves a membership of 6,500. The executive director is Garth Potts.

History

The center was founded by a group of young men from Knesseth Israel synagogue who met in 1906 to create what became the Young Men's Hebrew Association. It was their purpose to bring together Jewish kids from across the city. By 1910 the organization had 50 members and began seeking a club house in the downtown area. A lot on 6th Avenue North and 17th Street was purchased with the help of Louis Pizitz and J. Goldstein, but no building was built. The property was sold to Congregation Beth-El for $10,000.

Under YMHA president Simon Klotz a new capital campaign was launched in 1919. On April 21, 1920 the association purchased a new lot on the corner of 7th Avenue North and 18th Street for $20,000. The new YMHA building was dedicated in September 1926. Soon later the club affiliated itself with Birmingham's Community Chest. In addition to social programs for youth, the Association sponsored "Americanization" classes for immigrants, founded a theater group, and established a kindergarten along with the Temple Sisterhood and the Council of Jewish Women. In 1927 the YMHA became an affiliate of the National Jewish Welfare Board. It also established an athletics program, competing in baseball, basketball and other sports, and sponsored a Boy Scout troop led by Sidney Weinstein.

In the 1930s the center, which had recently begun accepting female members, welcomed German refugee families with free memberships, helping them adapt to life in America. Educator Samuel Ullman donated a library of 500 volumes in 1930. During the Great Depression, the club offered free membership to the unemployed, posted job listings and served meals, even while it was unable to keep up with the mortgage on the building. President Simon Klotz and board member William Engel led efforts to keep the YMHA afloat through donations. Fund-raising for Jewish programs was consolidated under the United Jewish Welfare Fund with offices at the YMHA.

During World War II the YMHA coordinated social, recreational and religious activities for Jewish soldiers at Fort McClellan in Anniston. The Y organized Birmingham's first USO club in 1942. As the war ended the group eyed expansion and purchased an adjacent lot.

In 1949 the name was changed to the Jewish Community Center of Birmingham as the first women joined the board of directors. The board decided to relocate and president Jimmy Permutt began searching for a suitable site. In 1950, the JCC purchased property on Clairmont Avenue across from the Lakeview School. Construction costs rose suddenly with the Korean War, so nothing was built there. A larger site was subsequently found, and on December 11, 1955 the JCC purchased its present site on Montclair Road from the Republic Steel Corporation. Architectural plans for the new facility were completed by Lawrence Whitten & Son in 1956.

In the 1960s the JCC challenged Birmingham's segregation laws by opening its doors to all races. In the 1970s a kosher kitchen was added, along with a playground, tennis and handball courts, and, later, an indoor swimming pool and running track. The N. E. Miles Jewish Day School and day care services were launched and, in 1983 a comprehensive refurbishing of the JCC's facilities was undertaken. The center also added Temerson Park for outdoor recreation.

In the 1990s the organization was renamed in honor of Ted Levite. N. E. Miles Jewish Day School moved into its present location on the JCC campus in 1993.

Presidents

Directors

References

  • Osburn, Lisa (October 1, 2007) "Levite Jewish Community Center celebrates centennial." Birmingham News.

External links