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Why I give to The J: Michael Nissenbaum appreciates ‘unmatched communal spirit’

A family of four, including two young children, take a break from playing on the beach to pose for a photo
Jessica and Michael Nissenbaum support The J for current and future generations.

Here at The J, every dollar counts toward bettering our community. Our impact is directly linked to support from our partners, including donations from our members and friends. We’re proud that our legacy of being an oasis for B’ham’s Jewish community has evolved into playing such an important role in the wider community.

Philanthropy at any level touches on a number of Jewish values, including tzedakah (charity and the pursuit of righteousness), tikkun olam (repairing the world), and the importance of kehillah (creating community).

In addition to funding an array of Jewish programs, contributions to The J support critical community needs such as blood drives, aquatic therapy for veterans, affordable swim lessons for underserved local students, and services to adults with autism. Combining these offerings with our dynamic programming and popular events creates opportunities for collaboration, recreation, and learning across generations. 

We caught up with Michael Nissenbaum recently to find out why he gives to The J…

LJCC: Do you recall any initial inspiration that spurred your first donation to the Levite Jewish Community Center?

MN: There was no epiphanic moment, but I do appreciate community and I’m happy to be able to foster and enjoy community at The J.

Can you share a specific experience or moment that reinforced your commitment to supporting the Levite JCC?

While speaking with a member some time ago, I was made aware of The J’s efforts to unite diverse groups of people, some of whom might not feel welcome everywhere. This really resonates with me because it corresponds so closely with the legal work I do for underserved communities in Jefferson County Family Court.

My hope is that everyone feels welcome here at The J, and I want to think my support helps make that happen.

Are there particular aspects or initiatives of The J that resonate with you and motivate your continued support?

I’m always happy to see the creative and inclusive programming the J offers for adults and children — like inclusive art, the “Together Against Antisemitism” program back in August, tai chi, the recently reopened Youth Lounge, summertime Thursday Family Fun Nights, Southern Jewish Voices, and more.*

How do you envision the future of The J, and how does your philanthropy align with that vision?

As a parent I try to remain mindful of how my decisions impact my children. The J is an institution I hope my children can continue to enjoy with their friends both within and outside the Birmingham Jewish community for years to come.

There are so many worthy causes in Birmingham. Why The J?

Jews! Jews! Jews! JEWS! But seriously, while there are many causes important to my wife and me, the LJCC has a communal spirit that is unmatched. 

What might you say to someone who is on the proverbial fence about making a gift to The J?

Just do it! Your grandchildren will thank you.

*Other “creative and inclusive” programs include: J-Move for disabilities, inclusive water aerobics, Swim School for I3 Academy, aquatic therapy for veterans, services for adults with autism, the grief support group, the “Together Against Antisemitism” program, the “Fighting for Their Lives: Understanding Trans and Gender-Diverse Identities” program, “Honor Our Parents” Shabbat, “Bake Like Your Bubbe” classes, and more…

Also read about Michael’s fitness journey at The J…