There is no greater symbol of thriving Jewish life on Staten Island than the new 100,000-square-foot, $33 million community center soon to rise in Willowbrook.
But one thing that won’t be rising is the JCC’s mortgage costs, thanks to a $2 million donation announced this week by Alan and Joan Bernikow, supporters of the center for more than 30 years.
It is believed to be the single largest gift ever given to a Staten Island Jewish institution. “It is also one of the largest gifts ever given privately in all of Staten Island at any time,” said Alan Weissglass, chairman of the JCC’s Capital Campaign. “The concept of dor l’dor is to pass on this new center to the next generation, not a large mortgage.”
Alan Bernikov, a former chairman of the JCC board, is a retired executive of the Deloitte and Touche accounting firm, and an executive committee member of United Jewish Communities, among other organizational affiliations.
“This will make Staten Island a better place to live — that’s what it’s all about,” said Bernikow at a Major Gifts Capital Campaign reception last week.The donation brings funding for the new facility — a dream of JCC officials for almost 40 years — up to about $24 million from private donations, government funds and grants from local banks and others.
When it opens in 2006, the Alan and Joan Bernikow JCC will replace an aging structure built on the North Shore in 1929. The new facility will include a library, senior center, early childhood wing, computer and music classrooms, a social hall, indoor and outdoor pools, a kosher café and a state-of-the-art health club. Construction is to begin within 60 days.
JCC executive director Lewis Stolzenberg said the gift came as a “wonderful surprise” during a breakfast meeting with Wiessglass and Bernikow to discuss the capital campaign.
“It teaches you that in fund-raising, if you keep telling people your story, if it’s a good story, other people will get excited about it and help bring it to fruition,” said Stolzenberg.
UJA-Federation’s New York Jewish Population Survey, released last year, found a 27 percent increase in the Jewish population in Staten Island over the past 10 years — the largest growth in New York City — fueled largely by Russian immigrants.