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Ribbon cutting reveals completed $50M Houston Jewish Community Center renovation project

The $50 million renovation of the 87-year-old Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center started in 2016 but was interrupted by Harvey a year later.

HOUSTON — The J has been a pillar in the Meyerland community since the 1930s but the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center was nearly wiped out by Hurricane Harvey.

After millions of dollars and years of perseverance, JCC representatives cut the ribbon on its new building on Sunday.

It was a $50 million renovation, but the generations of people who have been part of the community said its impact is priceless.

The new J was unveiled as representatives from the Jewish community and city officials relived the long road to the renovation.

"It feels really good to now come and see a space that was -- five years ago, under 10 feet of water," Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

The project started in 2016, but Harvey caused catastrophic damage that set construction back.

But, nothing could stop the community from completing what they set out to do.

"It's very historical what has been achieved with this new facility," City Council member Abbie Kamin said.

The J has always been a part of Kamin's life.

"Growing up in Houston at the JCC, we played sports, where we did activities, now to have this new space where my family can enjoy -- not just our Jewish community, but the community at large," she said.

Sharon Benhamo said she grew up at The J.

"I think I learned how to swim here. I mean, it's memories," Behamo said.

Behamo remembered the effect Harvey had on the center as well as her life.

"It's home, so when you see your home destroyed, it's devastating," Behamo said.

Now, the multi-floor building has everything from a gym to multi-use rooms to indoor and outdoor spaces. It even had underground stormwater detention tanks installed for future protection.

Marilyn Steinberg said that for the Jewish community, in particular, the building is a cornerstone of their lives.

"Your heritage. Your culture," Steinberg said.

As the center looks forward to welcoming all of Houston back inside its doors, it provides a moment to reflect on the perseverance and its future impact on the community.

"It's amazing to finally see it come to life," Benhamo said.

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