I have several remembrances going back to the 60’s of my time at the JCH of Bensonhurst. I am from New Haven – the New Haven JCC and the “J” had a fierce basketball rivalry. I was captain of the New Haven JCC varsity basketball team. When I stepped off the bus after the two and one half hour ride from New Haven I saw a building that the first New Haven JCC must have looked like. I grew up at a modern JCC building built in the 50s. I only saw pictures of the Legion Avenue building that the modern/architect designed one replaced. At first the Bensonhurst Brooklyn “look” was overwhelming – it was unfamiliar and off-putting. It wasn’t until years later did I realize it was the real-deal. When I stepped in the front door of the JCH of Bensonhurst I was at an immediate disadvantage. While trying get my game face on loads and loads of kids,
with yamulkas and tsitsits, surrounded me and the other players letting us know the varsity team was going to pound us. It was not done with malice. The next event was entering the boys locker rooms. Again filled with kids. It had to be at least 100 degrees. Our traveling attire was jackets and ties so we were shvitzing. Before getting to the gym was the trophy case filled with first place trophies acquired by teams from the J. Big trophies!! The gym was a “shoe box” and if you ran too far at the end of the court you could go head first in to the brick wall. Although there were usually hundreds of fans there for the Sunday afternoon game if you were blind-folded you would have sworn there were thousands. You couldn’t hear the coaches instructions during the game. The back boards were glass – what JCC had glass back boards? My dad was Phys. Ed. Director of the New Haven JCC. He had a very warm and long-standing relationship with the J’s Director Milton Gold. The coach at the time was Arthur Press. Both my dad and Milt would each cherish a victory over the other – competition was competition. In my time, the J owned us. Here are some other things that stand out in my mind: The children were having a great time and you could just feel they loved the J. The basketball players, all 15-18 years old, were disciplined and respectful. No one got out of line with my dad, Milt nor Artie – they players knew the boundaries. Milt was firm but fair. Of course to a teenager hardly any discipline seemed fair. All in all it was not about the building but it was about the people – all of them. Coming and leaving Bensonhurst gave me insights in to Brooklyn that I could never have had as a teen without the JCC-JCH connection.