Looking Back. Looking Forward. Creating a Jewish Legacy.
My JCC “first” was when I was five-years-old and my parents enrolled me in enrichment classes at Bernard Horwich JCC in Rogers Park. I can still smell the swimming pool where I learned to swim, the wood crafting classes and riding the bus from my grade school to the J. As I grew, the J grew with me (or maybe I actually grew with the J). I went to JCC day camp, I went to Camp Chi and I traveled to Israel when I was a teen with the JCC.
Many years later, when my wife Barbara (also an alum of Bernard Horwich) and I started a family, back to the J we went. We enrolled our daughter, Michelle, in enrichment classes. She loved them all but our favorite was Me and My Dad. Any Dad who took part in this program will know what I mean. I did Me and My Dad with all three of my kids and those were some incredibly special years. Maybe it was the precious, invaluable one-on-one time I had with my kids, maybe it was the long car rides to overnight trips, or maybe it was the friends we all made, but this program was truly something special- something very memorable- for my kids and for me.
In fact, my involvement with the JCC Chicago Board of Directors actually traces back to Me and My Dad. On one of the overnight trips I met a Board Member who asked me if I’d consider serving in a leadership position. I learned more and said yes and my journey with the J continued to grow and evolve.
My kids met some of their closest friends through JCC programming, especially Camp Chi. When it was time for my kids to visit colleges, their J network helped us with tours and answered the endless questions. All of my kids worked at the JCC, earning their first paychecks here, and finding their own voices as leaders and role models in the community. My oldest daughter met her husband through a JCC connection.
When I think about what a Jewish legacy means to me, it’s easy. It means JCC Chicago and the way this incredible organization has been a constant presence for me, for my wife and for our children. I am filled with gratitude for the experiences and relationships that have come from our J connection and I’m honored to be part of the future vitality of this amazing place.
Stuart Hochwert is a past president, current board member and lifelong supporter of JCC Chicago.