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Wilson family gift means campus project ‘will be built’
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Wilson family gift means campus project ‘will be built’

Donor inspired by youth at JCC, future of Jewish community

The Wilson family meet with Jewish Community Campus officials, from left, cochair Ron Berman, Matt and Staci Wilson, cochair Ron Berman, and executive director Drew Staffenberg, and, holding a board displaying pictures of the new campus, from left, Noah
The Wilson family meet with Jewish Community Campus officials, from left, cochair Ron Berman, Matt and Staci Wilson, cochair Ron Berman, and executive director Drew Staffenberg, and, holding a board displaying pictures of the new campus, from left, Noah

The central question, according to Drew Staffenberg, has been answered.

Ever since the seeds for the proposed Jewish Community Campus of Princeton Mercer Bucks were planted more than a decade ago, the question the executive director of the campus’ Development Council has heard more than any other was, “Will it ever be built?”

Now, thanks to a recent major gift from the family of Matthew and Staci Wilson, financing for the campus project has taken a giant leap forward, and, said Staffenberg, “we can definitely say it will be built.”

As a result of the gift, the new campus in West Windsor will be known as the Matthew and Staci Wilson Jewish Community Campus. In addition, the campus’ Jewish Community Center will house the Ari, Noah, and Sari Wilson Teen Lounge, named for the couple’s children, ages eight, four, and two, respectively.

Staffenberg of West Windsor reported that the gift means the development council now has raised more than 80 percent of its $25 million fund-raising goal.

In deciding to throw his family’s support behind the project, the 36-year-old Matt Wilson thought about his own upbringing, then considered the future of the Jewish community in which he now lives.

“We were looking for something that would be meaningful to us and to the community as a whole,” said Wilson, who grew up in Yardley, Pa., and now lives with his family in Pennington. “We wanted to make a significant difference. It was the ability to make that kind of difference that attracted us. Given the need, the timing, and where they were in the process, this was the perfect opportunity.

“In a very real sense, the JCC has helped to shape my identity,” said Wilson, referring to the JCC of the Delaware Valley, previously located in Ewing, whose Ring Nursery School and Abrams Day Camp he attended, as well as NJ Y Camps. “Some of my closest friends are people I met through my involvement with the JCC. As a result, I wanted to do something that not only will benefit the JCC, but will benefit my family and the entire community.”

‘Every gift important’

Wilson was an executive on Wall Street and within the hedge fund industry for much of the past 15 years. He also has been an early-stage investor and board member in a variety of technology, start-up, and real estate ventures. He is currently focused on early-stage investments, primarily in emerging and transformational technology, helping young entrepreneurs grow their businesses, real estate investments and teaching, as well as philanthropy.

“Once this campus becomes a reality, I expect that it will serve as the glue that binds our Jewish community,” he said. “It aligns perfectly with how my wife and I wanted to focus our philanthropic efforts.” Staci Wilson, nee Kurzer, grew up in Parsippany.

The 77,000-square-foot facility on the new 80-acre campus on Clarksville Road will house the United Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks, the Betty and Milton Katz JCC, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County, and Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Mercer.

The JCC’s health and wellness center will include a gym, indoor pool, and locker rooms. A day-care facility, multi-purpose room, kosher cafe, kosher kitchens, and senior adult lounge will also be available to the community. In addition, the campus will house a summer camp.

Staffenberg said he is optimistic that construction will start before the end of the calendar year, and he expects the project to be completed in approximately 16 months. According to that timetable, the campus would be operational by the spring of 2012.

Howard Cohen of Lawrenceville, campus council cochair along with Ron Berman of Princeton, is hopeful that the additional donations needed to realize the fund-raising goal will materialize once construction actually begins.

“Every gift is important, and the support we’ve already received has enabled us to reach this point,” Cohen said. “But we haven’t reached the finish line yet, and we continue to seek additional donations.”

Staffenberg noted that numerous naming opportunities remain. He encouraged others to “consider joining the Wilsons — and so many others” who have supported the Jewish Community Campus.

For more information, call the Jewish Community Campus Development Council at 609-219-0555.

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