Repurposed campus is home to JCC camp

Repurposed campus is home to JCC camp

Camp staff gather for training in the green surroundings of the Abrams Summer Camp’s new venue, at the Windsor Athletic Club.     
Camp staff gather for training in the green surroundings of the Abrams Summer Camp’s new venue, at the Windsor Athletic Club.     

For years, the JCC of Princeton Mercer Bucks functioned out of a number of different venues, with its Abrams Day Camp and Teen Travel based at Rider University in Lawrenceville. This summer, the JCC and its camp programs will be based at a sparkling new site on Clarksville Road in West Windsor, with top-of-the-line sports and recreation facilities, in a setting that includes fields, woods, and a pond.

The JCC had planned to be at the Clarksville address all along, as part of a unified Jewish community campus, but for a while that hope seemed stymied. As originally envisioned, the $28 million 50-acre campus was to have housed, in addition to the JCC, the Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County, and the Jewish Community Foundation of Princeton Mercer Bucks. When funding proved inadequate in mid-2013, construction was halted. 

In a settlement agreement reached last August, Matt and Staci Wilson, major backers of the original plan, in lieu of foreclosure took ownership of the property, which was transferred from the Jewish Community Campus Development Council, the association formed to build the campus, to the new entity. 

Construction on what is now the Windsor Athletic Club, owned and operated by the Wilsons, was completed earlier this year, resulting in a multi-purpose center with banquet facilities and classrooms in addition to an Olympic-size pool, basketball court, and gym. It opened officially on March 1.

The JCC has leased facilities from the WAC for its offices and its camp, as well as other programs. In addition to the JCC, the building may also house a private school.

Wendy Soos, director of the Abrams camp, recently took a visitor on a tour of the West Windsor facility, where activities are planned for up to 300 kids, from three-year-olds to 10th-graders. Camp runs from June 30 to Aug. 22. 

“This is a Jewish-oriented camp,” she stressed. It includes a full week of Israel-themed activities, and weekly programs that underline Jewish values, combining play with tikun olam (repairing the world) and tzedaka (the mitzva of giving), as well as creativity and learning.

Soos said, “We’re very appreciative of what Rider offered us. But our new location provides us with more room to grow and expand our array of activities.”

It’s very personal for the JCC’s president, Lynne Azarchi. For her and her sons, now 23 and 20, the JCC has been “a second home.” She said she is really happy about the new venue and is excited about the possibilities it offers the JCC for its full range of programs as well as the camp.

Soos is looking forward to the camp’s grand climax in August, an “American Idol-style” show featuring every camper. In a way, she said, the whole camp is like a theater production: “The staff are the cast, the kids are the audience, and the parents are the critics.” 

As for the other organizations that had planned to be at the Clarksville Road site, all continue at the venues they have occupied for some time.

JFCS continues in its location on Alexander Road in West Windsor, and has purchased additional space nearby to accommodate its expanding programs. The federation and the foundation recently moved within a building complex in Lawrenceville where they shared and continue to share office space. 

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