Palo Alto's first semblance of a Jewish Community Center appeared more than 50 years ago, with a handful of people meeting in a storefront on El Camino Real. In response to increased participation, the JCC moved to a small house downtown and later to another house on Middlefield Road.
After outgrowing the house on Middlefield, the JCC leased the former Ortega School site on East Meadow Drive. But as the community continued to grow, we once again needed to find larger quarters.
The JCC made its new home at the then-closed Terman Jr. High School site on Arastradero Road, thanks to a generous gift from Albert and Janet Schultz (z”l) for whom the JCC was then named. For nearly 20 years, the ALSJCC offered preschool, afterschool care and enrichment programs, adult and family activities, summer day camps, émigré and senior services, and a popular fitness and aquatics program.
With steadily rising school enrollments, the Terman campus needed to be used as a functioning school, and we were left to re-evaluate our living situation once again. We moved to the Cubberley/Greendell campus in 2002 where the ALSJCC continued to provide outstanding programs and a welcoming community—but with limited facilities and the knowledge that a permanent home needed to be found.
A coalition of Jewish organizations and individuals conceived the idea of creating a multi-generational campus incorporating both the ALSJCC and senior residences in a vibrant, 24/7 Jewish community. That idea became the rallying cry for the successful $140 million Capital Campaign to build the TKCJL and its two cornerstone institutions—the OFJCC and Moldaw Family Residences. The location was the former Sun Microsystems headquarters site in Palo Alto.
A remarkable lead gift from Barbara and Ken Oshman gave the Capital Campaign a major boost and gave the ALSJCC a new namesake. The Schultzes graciously continued their unwavering support to build, endow and name the Schultz Cultural Arts Hall on the new Campus. Other extraordinary donors named other facilities, as well as the Campus itself. After almost two-and-a-half years of design, planning and fundraising, the Campus received unanimous approval from the Palo Alto City Council in 2006. The official groundbreaking was held on October 7, 2007.
It was a busy year: the ALSJCC officially changed its name to the Oshman Family JCC in January, construction continued on schedule, staff moved to the new Campus in July and we opened our doors on September 1. On October 18, we had a Grand Opening Celebration to share our new home with the entire community!
Further expanding the Oshman Family JCC's green building credentials, we installed Palo Alto's second largest solar roof system, totaling over 1,800 panels.
In 2016, the Oshman Family JCC welcomed two major improvements to campus: the Oasis Play Space on the Jessica Lynn Saal Town Square and a new cafe space. Both features make the Taube Koret Campus a center for gathering, schmoozing and creative play. At the same time, the OFJCC redefined its mission and vision to reflect Silicon Valley's spirit of innovation, focusing on becoming Architects of the Jewish Future®.
In 2018, with the help of generous gifts from the community, the Oshman Family JCC at last completed the original plan for the campus by opening the Arrillaga Family Pavilion, a a flexible two-story building with 1,500 square feet of reconfigurable multipurpose spaces to host classes and community celebrations, and the 25,000 square foot Freidenrich Community Park, adding to Palo Alto a beautiful new environment for gathering, connecting and creating community with a walking track, fire pit, outdoor fitness facilities and a garden space.
In 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oshman Family JCC temporarily closed, but quickly found ways to continue serving the community with new outdoor fitness facilities, COVID-safe preschool and school-aged kid care options, and digital events. The generous support of members, donors and philanthropic foundations helped ensure that the OFJCC could continue to operate and serve its mission during this challenging time.
A new improvement graced the OFJCC in early 2021. At the center of the Jessica Lynn Saal Town Square, at the heart of the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life, was a new installation by Richard Deutsch Studios called Chai: a steel sculpture soaring 45 feet above the ground and featuring a sound installation that visitors would be able to play on their own smartphones. The project was a community-supported initiative undertaken prior to COVID and fully funded by generous donors, with lead sponsorship by the Taube Philanthropies as part of a larger Jewish peoplehood grant.