While JCCs promote Jewish culture and heritage through holiday celebrations, Israel-related programming, and Jewish education, they are open to everyone in the community. JCC Association is the continental umbrella organization for the Jewish Community Center Movement, which includes more than 350 JCCs, YM-YWHAs, and camp sites in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to 180 local JCCs in the Former Soviet Union, 70 in Latin America, 50 in Europe, and close to 500 smaller centres in Israel.
JCC Association offers a wide range of services and resources to help its affiliates to provide educational, cultural, social, Jewish identity-building, and recreational programs for people of all ages and backgrounds. JCC Association supports the largest network of Jewish early childhood centers and Jewish summer camps in North America, and is also a U.S. government accredited agency for serving the religious and social needs of Jewish military personnel through JWB Jewish Chaplains Council.
As a rule, today JCCs are open to other ethnic groups as well, with a possible exception of strictly traditional Jewish activities. In fact, many JCCs sponsor local events. There are, however, many other activities which people can host at the JCC. For example, in Houston there are rooms to rent and Drivers Education classes.
There are almost two dozen Jewish community centers in the New York metro area, providing a wide range of social, cultural, and educational services, ranging from lectures, concerts, theater performances, and dance recitals to health and fitness classes, job training workshops, and citizenship classes. Although the majority of JCCs are found on the East Coast, with 17 sites in Florida, JCCs operate in Omaha, Nebraska, Las Vegas, Austin, Texas, and Seattle, Washington. JCCs all over the country sponsor film festivals and book fairs, bringing world-renowned writers and directors to smaller communities.
Their programs and activities vary by location. Particularly noteworthy is the JCC in West Bloomfield, Michigan, which is the largest JCC in North America, and possibly the world. The Holocaust Memorial Center, which attracts many visitors to its programs and exhibits, used to be a part of the JCC of West Bloomfield, but recently opened a building of their own. The West Bloomfield JCC houses two gymnasiums which can be made into three gyms using a movable wall, a workout area, an indoor full size and kiddie pool, an outdoor full size pool, a kosher restaurant, a Michigan Jewish war veterans museum, an in line hockey center, a library, ceramics/art rooms, a large auditorium type room (Handleman Hall), an art museum, an area dedicated to teaching and learning about tzedakah (charity) called Shalom Street, a performing arts theater in its basement, a preschool, offices for summer camps, the previously mentioned preschool, and other administrative offices and organizations. Beginning in the 2007-2008 school year, the top floor will be completely dedicated to The Jean and Samuel Frankel Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit, a Jewish High School which opened up in 2000. The JCC building is on the Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus along with multiple living quarters for the elderly and mentally disabled and an Alzheimer's treatment building.
One recent addition to the family of JCC's in North America is the The JCC in Manhattan This eleven story building situated in Manhattan's Upper West Side neighborhood opened its doors in the winter of 2002. The JCC offers a diversity of programs, from parenting to fitness, and each year the organization produces Israel NonStop, a week long festival presenting the most interesting and innovative Israeli musicians, authors, theatrical groups and films.
Some JCCs provide services for people with special needs, such as autism, asperger syndrome and learning disabilities. In 2008, The Mandel JCC of Cleveland was awarded $652,500 in grant funding to be used for individuals with disabilities. Cleveland-area children and adults with emotional, physical and developmental disabilities now have many opportunities to get involved in fitness, wellness and recreational activities. Whenever possible, activities are inclusive and children are able to fully participate, usually with the assistance of an aide.
The Mandel Jewish Community Center of Cleveland has been serving the greater Cleveland community for more than 60 years and provides programs of exceptional quality for families and individuals of all ages including pre-school and children’s programs, summer camps, fitness, wellness and recreation programming and arts and culture programs.
In 1844, the 19th-century Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) was founded as a network of Protestant parachurch organizations. This inspired the creation of, among other similar organizations, the Young Men's Hebrew Association. The YMHA (Young Men's Hebrew Association) was first set up in 1854 in Baltimore to provide help for Jewish immigrants. A YWHA (Young Women's Hebrew Association) was first established as an annex to the YMHA in New York in 1888. The New York YMHA and YWHA now operate together as the 92nd Street Y. Another New York YM-YWHA, unrelated to the 92nd Street location, is called the 14th Street YM-YWHA, located in the Gramercy neighborhood. The first independent YWHA was set up in 1902. In 1917 these organizations were combined into a Jewish Welfare Board, and were later renamed Jewish Community Centers (or JCCs), though some retain the YWHA or YMHA designation. In the New York City area, many retained the designation (or simply the term "Y" like the 92nd Street Y still does today) into the 1990s
The Judah L. Magnes Museum's Western Jewish History Center, located in Berkeley, California, has a large collection of original records, correspondence, reports, memorandums, and photographs that document the history of San Francisco's Jewish Community Center, from its very beginning to the present day.
New security measures now being implemented include the mandatory display of photo ID upon entry to the building, background checks of prospective employees and members, and police officers or security guards being stationed on premises. Childcare areas now have their access restricted to those who have legitimate reason to enter, and removal of a child, which is tightly monitored, is permitted only by custodial parents and guardians and other authorized adults. In addition, many other new security features now reduce the likelihood of non-members gaining access to member-restricted areas.