The Alpert Jewish Community Center began as a converted office apartment on Third Street and Lime in Long Beach, California. It was established as the Long Beach Jewish Community Center in 1948 when half of the sixth floor of the Masonic Temple on Locust was leased to meet the needs of its 186 families. The opening ceremonies in November, 1948, attracted over 1000 people! The total budget for the first year was $15,750 with family memberships at $12 annually and youth memberships at $3.
Less than a year later, needing more room, the growing organization leased the entire 6th floor for its activities, but it was soon apparent that even this would not be adequate, and in 1952 the Center moved to a converted furniture store at 2026 Pacific Avenue, while also purchasing a lot at 25th Street and Pacific for construction of a new building. Fund-raising for this purpose began in 1953. Later a community survey revealed that the lot location did not match the geographical distribution of the growing Jewish community, so that lot was sold and a 3-acre lot was bought near the Traffic Circle in 1954.
By 1957 the campaign for a new building revived as the Jewish population of the area continued to grow, but it was now clear that the site near the Traffic Circle was too small, so it was sold and an 8-acre parcel of land at the corner of Willow and Grand was purchased from the City. Construction officially started on November 27, 1958, and the Center Building opened in the summer of 1960, just 12 years to the day from the opening ceremonies at the Masonic Temple site.
...In its very first year of existence, the Center started a summer day camp, conducted at the Camp Seahawk facility near Colorado Lagoon. Two 4-week sessions enrolled 45 campers, at a fee of $20 each, thus beginning the ongoing tradition of Camp Kadiman. The addition of more programs aimed at slightly older children, tweens and teens followed, with Travel Camp and the Summer Stock programs beginning in 1963. Nursery school classes also started early in the 1960s, laying the groundwork for a growing Early Childhood Education program that really flourishes today.
Young people have always been a focus for Center programming, especially in the summer and school vacation periods, but adults have not been forgotten judging by the wide variety of activities available including educational, cultural and recreational activities as lectures, classes, concerts, art shows, and travel programs. But maybe the most popular for adults revolved around theatre -- the "let’s put on a show" syndrome dating back to the Center Players in the early 60s. They not only produced a play or plays almost every year, but also on occasion the exciting and memorable Front and Center extravaganzas.
Another segment of the Jewish community, seniors, also began to benefit from programs initiated in the early 70s, frequently with funding from federal or state agencies and also frequently in partnership with other agencies such as Jewish Family Service or National Council of Jewish Women. Several of these programs, such as Project Outreach, SOS and RSVP, provided services for the elderly, particularly the poor, off the Center premises, usually in downtown Long Beach.
In 1971, the Center inaugurated a symbolically striking and satisfying occasion: the first of the Senior Adult Seders on the second night of Passover in the Center itself. Not only was a meal and a service provided in the Center, but special Passover meals were delivered to Jewish nursing home patients and to others in the area who could not get to the Center. The very next year saw the inauguration of another Center celebration of a Jewish holiday, the Hanukkah Happening.
In 1990, the combined boards of the Center, Family Service, and Federation met to begin planning a new facility, a campus, to house their offices and programs. Finally, after the years of planning and re-planning, and always the soliciting of funds, the Center sponsored its last formal occasion, "The Last Splash Reunion," at the JCC pool on August 24, 1997. One month later, on September 28, 1997, we celebrated the first formal ceremony for the building to be -- the groundbreaking activities for the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Jewish Community Campus and the Barbara and Ray Alpert Jewish Community Center.
The community now had the people and the place to take it not only into the next century but indeed into our new millennium.