Shanny Morgenstern was 14 years old when, in 1972, she went to the old Jewish Community Center, then located at 81st Street and Holmes Road.
She can’t recall exactly why she went there on one particular day, but she remembers this:
“I met my husband there,” she said.
Long before that, Morton Spack, 81, and Bob Kleban, 82, remember going to what they called “the center,” then located at Linwood Boulevard and Wayne Avenue, when they were 8 and 9 years old, World War II was young and the phrase “Jewish holocaust” had yet to enter the public lexicon.
“As kids, we all went there,” said Spack.
On Sunday morning, they joined more than 350 other men and women for 100 minutes of cross training, spinning, yoga, Pilates and other exercises to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of an institution that has played a significant role in improving community life in the Kansas City area since its start in an old produce building in the City Market.
Founded in January 1914, the Jewish Community Center began then as the YMHA, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, soon to be followed by the Young Women’s Hebrew Association.
“Everyone went there. We had to,” said current president Jacob Schreiber, 50. “We couldn’t get into other clubs.”
What started as an organization meant to create cohesion and identify among Kansas City’s Jewish immigrants, Schreiber said, has over the decades “built bridges with the entire community.”
The center — which 25 years ago moved with much of the Jewish population to Overland Park — now occupies a sprawling complex of athletic and other facilities at 5801 W. 115th St.
Of its 8,000 members, 45 percent are not Jewish.
Beyond its pool, gymnasiums, exercise machines and workout rooms, the center is also home to important cultural and educational organizations including the Jewish Veterans Museum and the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education.
In keeping with the center’s focus on “wellness, meaning and joy,” Sunday was all celebration.
Loren Ginden, 40, came with this wife, Bree, 37, who leads classes in yoga and Pilates at the center. But both Ginden and his wife said they remember coming to the center when they were younger. Now they bring their sons, Asher, 7, and, Merrick, 5.
Morgenstern, who is chairwoman of the centennial celebration committee, said that the center’s plan is to end the year in December with a capstone. The hope, she said, is to gather enough people to spin 1,000 dreidels, the toy four-sided tops, at the same time to achieve a Guinness world record.