annette van de kamp
Editor, Jewish Press

And some say: A father is also obligated to teach his son to swim.
(Talmud, Kiddushin 29A)

Don Goldstein has loved to swim since he was a little kid; it’s why he can be found in the Jewish Community Center’s pool on a regular basis. A pool that carries his family’s name: our outdoor waterpark is now known as the “Goldstein Family Aquatic Center.”

“I had my first swimming lessons at the old JCC and have been involved with swim meets since I was six years old,” he said. “I swam all through high school and in college. It was my sport, since my size didn’t really allow for a basketball or football career! Swimming is competitive, it’s clean and it forces you to have discipline. The goals and the time commitment it requires carry over to the rest of your life, especially in academics. What you learn in the pool is just as useful on dry land.”

When, approximately one year ago, Don heard about the plans for a brand new waterpark, he put out some feelers.

“I can’t really remember who I talked to first, but I let it be known that if anything was being done aquatic-wise, I was interested in being involved,” he said. “Soon, I received a call from Tom Fellman, who explained about the various plans for campus improvement.”

Don grew up spending countless hours at the “Old” JCC; located close enough that he and many of his friends could walk over from Central High School and hang out in the youth lounge. The current JCC youth lounge, located next to the canteen, was made possible because of Don’s late wife, Ann. Of course, they learned from the best: parents Shirley and Buddy Goldstein set a strong example about what it means to care.

“Our interests in this community are wide,” Don said. “It is often what pops up at the right time. Ann was always very big on early childhood needs and the wish to update the youth lounge coincided with our need to honor her memory. I heard someone say recently: we are successful when passion meets philanthropy. When you have an opportunity to get involved with something you care about, you should answer the call.”

He calls himself “no expert,” but knew the JCC pool was outdated.

“What is so great about what we have built here is the many different features,” he said. “It’s so much more than a pool; it offers more room to get active, for parents to interact with their kids. There is just so much more going on, the slides, the lazy river or the swim meets. Besides, the access for both the little ones at the Childhood Development Center and the Friedel students is phenomenal. The kids love coming here, so the parents and grandparents follow. I am very grateful the opportunity to help was there and Andi and I look forward to enjoying the new water park with our kids and grandkids.”

There is a deeper purpose here, Don thinks. It’s not ‘just’ a pool; it’s a venue for family time, a place where different generations, family and friends can come together. After all, what is a community center if it doesn’t offer ways to grow and strengthen that community?

JCC Executive Director Mark Martin agrees: “It’s so much more than a pool; it’s a gathering place for people of every age to socialize as much as swim.”

“The Goldstein family always finds a way to support the community,” JFO CEO Alan Potash said, “and there is an added benefit when it comes from their passion for something meaningful. Over the years that I have known the Goldstein family, I have had the pleasure of experiencing some of their passions first hand and this summer I enjoyed watching Donald take the first official swim in the new Goldstein Family Aquatic Complex pool. This pool is and will be a pool for future generations.”

“We recently had a Rotary Club event,” Don said, “and we were able to show off the Aquatic Center, I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t get some new members out of that. Once people see for themselves what we have, they are always surprised. It’s an impressive improvement to our JCC and something we should all be proud of.”

Steve Levinger said: “I’d be hard pressed to name a more credible and committed gentleman in this town than Don.  For decades, Don and his family have recognized Omaha as an amazing city to establish roots and raise a family.  They have opened doors for many people and have helped build this community into what it is today.  As we think about the JCC as the central hub in many of our family’s lives, what better investment than an awesome pool to bring parents, kids, friends and neighbors together.”

Don has tried other sports throughout the years, he said, but he always comes back to the water.

“Nothing hurts afterwards, I always feel better and I do my best thinking when I’m swimming,” he added. “The way we celebrated the last day of the summer pool season, when they brought in the band; the place was hopping! The reception we had this past June after the JFO’s Annual Meeting was a big success as well.”

At the end of the day, it’s the people who make the place, Don said.

“There may be nothing specifically Jewish about a pool (or a theater, or a playground, for that matter) but this building is our home. It’s where we come together as a community and that is always a worthwhile cause.”