Jacobs: Valley of the Sun JCC offers unique approach to tired model

Jay Jacobs at The Valley of the Sun JCC on May 30. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

After 9 a.m. on a Tuesday in May isn’t generally the hardest time to find a parking spot in the city of Scottsdale.

That’s because residents could be on their way to work, dropping children off at school or partaking in their morning hike ritual — that is, except for the Valley of the Sun JCC.

Beyond the hustle and bustle of downtown Scottsdale, just north of Cactus Road sits The J — a community center that is a part of the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus at 12701 N. Scottsdale Road.

“We like when it’s like that,” Jay Jacobs, newly installed CEO positively noted of the busy facility while walking through the halls on May 30.

Positivity not only ensued Mr. Jacobs, but the whole facility it seemed as children just starting their summer camps, and adults completing a morning workout routine occupied the lobby — complete with a morning DJ blaring pop music.

Tucked-away down a maze of hallways on the second floor is the new CEO’s office, capped with a window illustrating sunny Arizona — Mr. Jacobs’s longtime dream.

“A combination,” he said, of the reason he took the job in Scottsdale. “This is the part of the country I always wanted to end up in, and the opportunity. I mean, the potential here is absolutely amazing.”

Coming directly from Richmond, Va. Mr. Jacobs has spent nearly 40 years with The J, but says the Valley of the Sun location offers something unique.

“When you look at the area, you look at the numbers, you look at the facility we have, the programing we have the ability to do — it really opens the door for us to be a really unique, special place,” he said.

Mr. Jacobs was born and raised in Pittsburgh and graduated from Penn State University, before embarking on a 38-year career with The J. He officially began in Scottsdale at the end of March, and on June 15 will also be CEO of the entire Ina Levine campus, with exception to the Jewish Federation.

The campus is home to the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center, Bureau of Jewish Education, Council For Jews With Special Needs and the Jewish Community Foundation.

Jay Jacobs, The J CEO. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Mr. Jacobs says his goal for The J overall is to continue excelling at being a community destination. He says he makes a point to walk throughout the facility every day, getting a taste of the fruits of his labor.

“For us, the way we look at it is really what are we doing that makes us different?” Mr. Jacobs asked.

“What are we willing to do that other places aren’t willing to do? How do we get our customer service to a level with the goal of always exceeding expectations — not meeting expectations but how do we exceed expectations?”

The J location in Scottsdale opened in 2002, and has about 5,500 members. Last summer, the facility opened its new pool and aquatic center, and most recently undergone steam room and track renovations.

In addition to facility improvements, the center has increased its security presence after a string of hoax threats were received at 129 JCC’s across the country in early 2017. The Scottsdale location received one threat.

The J not only has its own security team, but a Scottsdale Police Department officer also mans the campus.

“In the last six to 10 months we have certainly changed how we provide security,” Mr. Jacobs said of the center’s proactive approach. “Especially a place with parents and small kids, we want them to feel comfortable so we’ve changed our security a little bit.”

The J will continue evolving and growing as Mr. Jacobs says he’s excited for what the future holds.

“Our goal is to be a place for the entire community, to see it in a positive, upbeat manner and view us as being a little different,” he said. “And our challenge is always to make sure we make the adjustments pragmatically to meet the changing needs.”

Former CEO, Stuart Wachs, stepped down Jan. 31, according to a report by the Jewish News.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.