It all started when Alex Hallenstein's grandmother purchased him a $7 membership to his local JCC in New England. Little did he know that he would spend the next 40-plus years involved in some capacity with JCCs across the country.
On Thursday, July 2, Hallenstein's 33-year tenure as the executive director of the Schenectady JCC will end as he retires. His career started on April 1, 1976 as the assistant director of both the JCC and the former Schenectady Jewish Federation, and in November of 1977, he was named the executive director of the JCC.
I think the success of agencies is a partnership between staff and volunteers, said Hallenstein.
He said that he believed his greatest accomplishment came in two parts: the first part is administrative and the second part is the development of the services and programs that the Schenectady JCC has offered over the years.
"I think the fact that the staff and the departments maintain a fiscal health [is important] because if an agency continually has deficits, it's ill and it can't develop because its always worried about paying bills," said Hallenstein. "I think over the years we reached fiscal integrity."
During his tenure, the budget grew from less than $250,000 to $3 million per year. He also created an endowment fund, which has almost $1 million invested. The Schenectady JCC has become nearly debt free.
In the administrative department, he said that he feels part of the success has been the fact that the organization has been able to develop a cadre of volunteers and lay leaders, especially because he feels that over the last 10 to 15 years there has been a loss of volunteerism in society.
He said that when he came to Schenectady three decades ago with a wife and two small children, he never expected to stay in the area.