In Rhode Island, the Jewish community has many families with deep roots and those families often believe in helping preserve the communal institutions for future generations. Richard and Sandy Bornstein certainly fit that profile.
“The JCC has been part of our lives since we were kids,” Sandy said in a midsummer interview.
Richard agreed. “Since before it was in the building; when it was right around the corner. It’s always been central to our lives.”
Richard’s family owned Miller’s Deli on Hope Street on the East Side for many years.
Sandy’s family, the Kofflers, founded American Tourister Luggage Co. and then the Koffler Group where Richard is now president and CEO.
Married 40 years, they often finished each other’s sentences during the interview. Their fathers knew each other. Providence is that kind of community, tight knit and supportive.
Four generations of Bornsteins have used the JCC. And each generation did its share to support this critical institution. “My aunt was one of the first people to get involved in the JCC,” he says. “The delicatessen always sponsored a team.” Richard used to play basketball there. And some of their six grandchildren played there.
The Kofflers’, roots are there too. Sandy describes how her mother “always had a phone to her ear” as she was active in fundraising for the Federation (now the Jewish Alliance). Her father believed in education. Other community institutions like Temple Emanu-El have benefited greatly from both families’ generosity.
This family history of philanthropy, as well as the example of Donald and Bonnie Dwares, spurred the Bornsteins to make a gift toward the ongoing renovations of the Dwares JCC. Their gift will be used to rebuild the front entrance to the building.
“We’re philanthropic,” says Richard. “We give to a lot of different causes in Florida, in Rhode Island. We were inspired by the Dwares.
“We need to make it [the JCC] more open and attractive,” he said. Like others who have donated to the renovation project, Richard and Sandy cite the need to make the space more welcoming to the community and to future generations.
“Our community is so fortunate to have Sandy and Richard Bornstein support us in all of our endeavors,” said Jeffrey Savit, president and CEO of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. “Their caring and philanthropy is boundless. When people enter our new front entrance at the Dwares JCC, they will know that the Bornsteins were responsible for providing such a lovely portal to our facility that will be welcoming and accessible to one and all.”
The Dwares JCC renovation project is a long-term strategic initiative. It involves everything from updating the heating and cooling system in the building to rearranging the diverse functions and services offered and making the entire facility handicapped accessible. While some elements of the redesign, such as updating the David C. Isenberg Family Early Childhood Center and the health clubs and locker rooms, are well underway, the bulk of the renovations are scheduled to begin in March 2016.
FRAN OSTENDORF is editor of The Jewish Voice.