Q&A With Jewish Community Center On The Hudson’s Board Chair Michael Maron

Jewish Community Center on the Hudson (JCC) is gearing up to build a 70,000-square-foot community center at its current location off Route 9 in Tarrytown, which now comprises more than six acres after a recent more-than-$3-million purchase of a former GM training facility next door. The new facility will be more than three times the current center’s size. Big news—especially if you have a kid who goes to karate, camp, gymnastics, you name it, at the JCC. But bigger news, at least in our eyes here at INComing, is the $6.4 million that’s been raised so far to fund the expansion. We sat down with Dobbs Ferry resident Michael Maron, JCC board chair and a managing director at JP Morgan, to find out how he did it.

Tell us about JCC’s new community center.

Right now we’re in a 17,000 square-foot building in Tarrytown, and we have consistently been looking for a larger space to do more of what we do now—more full-service programming. What we do now is absolutely insane for the size we’re operating with. During the day, we have a nursery program, seniors having meetings in the library, a fitness center. Then at 4:30/5 pm we have karate, music lessons, gymnastics—all at the same time. But we’re limited to the population we can serve in a building that size. We wanted a bigger space.

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We looked all around Rivertowns, then at one point roughly seven years ago, the GM training facility next to our current facility went up for sale. The original cost of the building was $7 million; we ended up buying it for $3.35 million (roughly), then proceeded to hire an architect, site planner, etc., and design a campus.

We’re adding two indoor pools, new locker rooms, a full gymnasium, a fitness center, a café, a 200-seat auditorium, an open courtyard with green space, and a set of ball fields behind the parking lot.

Where are you now in the process?

We can start construction once we’ve raised $6.5 million [$6.4 million has been raised so far]. The construction documents are at the Tarrytown Building Department right now. We have bid packages out to construction companies, and we have a bank that is committed to the project. So, in a perfect world, we’d have a November groundbreaking.

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Where did the bulk of the money come from?

The entire donation has come from private donors and a couple of foundations. We have a lead donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

How did you go about raising such a large sum?

We’ve had parlor meetings at individual homes, we’ve had them at the center, we had a cocktail party a year and a half ago at the facility where prior to the demolition we gave tours in hard hats. We have 100-percent board participation.  But it has been through the work of [Executive Director] Frank Hassid, the board, and the community, that has gotten the word out that ‘this is what we’re building, and this is why were building it.’ The vision we had and the story that we’ve been telling really brought people out in force to get this built.

What would you say made your campaign successful?

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There is nothing like this in the Rivertowns—a community center like this that’s going to be a full campus. So having something like this that’s brand new and fresh really exited people. And it’s not a “Jewish” center per say, it’s a community center built by the Jewish community. Thirty percent of the people who use our services are not Jewish.

What three pieces of advice would you give to anyone or any organization embarking on a fundraising campaign?

First, be passionate about the project. Second, do not be swayed by negativity and skepticism, because it does exist. There are a lot of show-me donors: The plans look great, the idea looks great, but come back when the shovel is in the ground. Sometimes a project of this size needs to be real before they’re going to donate. And last, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve been raising money for over four years. We bought this property five years ago. It goes through fits and starts. Like any other marathon, every mile is different—don’t be brought down. It’s a long process, often starts with a bang, but there are lulls in the middle, and do not get swayed, stay the course.

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