A rendering of what “The J” campus, off Dutchmans Lane, could look like after a building project. | Courtesy GBBN Architects

The Jewish Community of Louisville has launched a $40 million capital campaign to create a new-and-improved version of  “The J” campus, off Dutchmans Lane, without moving to another part of the city.

The “Our Community, Our Future” capital campaign will support a “total rebuild” of the campus that will include state-of-the-art facilities for membership and wellness, arts and culture, seniors and families as well as children, according to a news release.

Sara Klein Wagner, president and chief executive of the Jewish Community of Louisville, speaks at a news conference. | Photo by Darla Carter

The current Jewish Community Center, which dates to the 1950s, has served the community well but is “not the building to take us into the future,” said Sara Klein Wagner, president and chief executive of the Jewish Community of Louisville.

“We love it,” said Wagner, but it’s time for a replacement that’s more flexible, meets modern standards, and allows people to easily find what they’re looking for, from early childhood education to indoor aquatics, or the theater and cafe, she added.

“We want it to be a destination,” Wagner said. “A lot of people call it their home away from home. We want them to hang out.”

The new J campus is currently in its design phase and is expected to include a 106,000-square-foot replacement that will be about the same size as the current center, Wagner said. Plans also call for a 12,000-square-foot indoor recreational pool and swimming facility, enhanced security features and an expanded early learning center.

Another view of what the new campus could look like. | Courtesy of GBBN Architects

The project, which is being designed by GBBN Architects, will be located on the back part of the property, near the Watterson Expressway, rather than at the corner, where the center currently sits.

The breaking of ground could occur by the end of the year, depending on how fundraising goes, Wagner said.

After a two-year strategic planning process, “we are 60 percent of the way there,” Wagner said, partly thanks to a $10 million gift from the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence, which also has promised to match up to $15 million of the funds that will be coming in from other donors.

“This is a continuing process; we need everybody’s help,” said Jon Fleischaker, board chair for the Jewish Community of Louisville.

At least 60 lead gifts have been received from various supporters, including the Trager family and the Trager Family Foundation. Such friends realize the project “will change lives and impact families for years to come,” Wagner said.

Indeed, “we think this is one of the most transformational campaigns and opportunities that we’re going to have for generations to come,” said Jeff Polson, executive director of the Jewish Heritage Fund. “We really are looking at this as a generational investment as the predecessors did with the current building.”

Also, “it’s not only for the Jewish community but for the broader community as well,” he said.

The existing building will be operational “until we’re ready to move in” the new one, Fleischaker said.

Within about 90-days of completion of the new building, the old structure will be taken down, according to the Jewish Community of Louisville, which is exploring various plans for the front of the property, with the hope of maintaining as much green space as possible.

Meanwhile, JCL hasn’t made a final decision on how it will use the nearby Anshei Sfard synagogue property. The organization is expected to close on that property by the end of May, a move that follows the overturning of Anshei Sfard’s landmark designation.

JCL plans to maintain the mikvah, a ritual bath on that property, for the immediate future as members of the synagogue meet elsewhere.


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Darla Carter
Darla Carter is a hometown girl who recently joined the staff of Insider Louisville to mostly cover health. She previously served as a longtime health and fitness writer for The Courier-Journal, where she also worked for the Metro, Neighborhoods and Features departments. Prior to that, the award-winning journalist wrote for newspapers elsewhere in Kentucky and Tennessee, covering a range of topics, from education to courts. She's a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she studied journalism and philosophy, and is the proud mom of two young children.