Soaking up the scene at the J’s new outdoor pool

Taking a break

By Amanda Cohen, St. Louis Jewish Light

Since its opening Memorial Day weekend, the outdoor J Pool has been party central – the place to preen and be seen as well as swim and sun bathe.

It seems everyone comes: young and old, families and singles, Jews and non-Jews. Those who frequent the facility at the Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex, which includes lap lanes for serious swimmers and the Siwak Family pool, better known as the kiddie pool, with its spraying fountain and aquatic play gym, say the pools are not only in excellent shape and well-supervised, but they also like the vibe of the place because it’s so welcoming.

Youngsters, in particular, seem to get a true charge out of all the water activities, especially the curly Q slide that looks like giant yellow piping. While pumping out water, this slide also pumps out bodies, almost always laughing and wanting to “go again.” The deep end also offers a challenging climbing wall, springy diving board and rope swing dangling from a fake tree. Beyond the aquatic activities, shady spots are available under a large tent, lounge chairs are a plenty and there’s even a concession stand stocked with poolside favorites.

We ventured to the outdoor pools at the JCC in Creve Coeur on a recent near-perfect weather day and found the place busier than ever.

Never too old to be young

“Let’s go on the yellow slide again,” Daniel Movitz said to friends Keith Callen and Mike Rosen who were casually lounging on chaises. Without hesitation, the two sprung up, smiled and walked toward the long, twirling slide. The three then leaped into the pool where they met up with some new friends and played water basketball. It was a game filled with giggles, grunts and high-fives.

If this sounds like little kids’ play, think again. Movitz, Callen and Rosen are all 22 years old; but their age didn’t get in the way of having silly fun. Though they may have grown out of their little boy swim trunks and size 4 flip- flops, the three agreed that something about jumping in the pool and playing appeals to everyone no matter what age.

“It’s a fun environment where people can relax and express themselves,” said Movitz after a break from basketball. He likes the friendliness at the pool and the fact that it has a real community feel.

When Movitz is not yukking it up at the pool or participating in other leisure activities this summer, he works as a counselor at the day camps run by Congregation B’nai Amoona. He said at work he has to be an adult, but at the pool he can be a kid.

It’s a family affair

Paula Kasica, 59, described the J Pool as a blessing to her family as she relaxed on a lounge chair under the warm sun. She looked like a movie star in her sea green one-piece swimsuit, oversized sunglasses and yellow hat with a pink and orange flower. “It’s a great family pool, and it’s refreshing,” Kasica said, as she watched her husband John and their two-year-old grandson, Xander, play nearby.

The two-year-old quarterback threw an orange and yellow football to his grandfather, who softly tossed back the toy. Xander then chased after the ball, scooped it into his tiny hands and prepared himself for another fierce throw. After taking a break from his strenuous game of catch, the little energizer bunny danced and splashed in the Siwak pool while his peach fuzz blonde hair shined in the sun. John Kasica smiled at the child and laughed, truly amused. Soon after, Paula Kasica walked toward the pool and happily joined her family.

“We go three or four times a week, maybe more,” she said with a sweet laugh. “We love the pool because it is so close to home, and we are starting to get to know people.

Fun for teens

Sarah Levy, 16, likes to spend sunny days working on her golden tan with her girlfriends. She would agree the J Pool is the perfect place to bronze.

“I normally go with a big group of friends,” she said. “I think it’s very relaxing.”

And Sarah did just that on a warm Wednesday afternoon. The sun goddess lay under the bright sky with friends Marina May and Claire Lazaroff, chatting in their fashionable bikinis. The girls had a wonderful view of the rope swing attached to a large tree trunk, the aquatic climbing wall above the water and the bouncing diving board, which were all utilized by excited kids and teens. “I think it’s really nice that they have all of these activities,” Sarah said and then went back to working on her tan.

Words can’t describe

George Wade, 75, has three words for the new J Pool: showplace, immaculate, beautiful. “They provide what you want, it’s organized, and it’s always something you look forward to,” he said, explaining that he comes to the pool almost every day, which has been routine for nine years.

“I used to be a member of the old J and thought they couldn’t improve. But they did,” said Wade, who on this day favored bright blue crocs and yellow-and-white flowered swim trunks.

He said he loves being around all the active people, and the friendly members and staff. Like other pool users, he also loves the community-like feeling.

“If you can’t find something here to do, you better stay home and lock the door,” he joked.

Old and new memories

“I remember doing my first belly flop at the old J Pool when my sisters pushed me off the diving board,” said Doug Cohen. “I remember having my first crush on a J lifeguard.”

At the old J Pool, 4-foot Dougy Cohen was a carefree giddy toddler. As he got older, he became a proud JCCA camper where he vigorously competed in sports, hung out with camp friends and broke the eight-year-old girls’ hearts. He was the smiling toothless blond who did a million flips off the diving board and the sad puppy-face boy who never wanted to leave. Luckily, Cohen never did have to leave. He is now 48, still going to the J and making new memories there with his wife Esther and children, Ethan, 6, and Noa, 4.

Many days in the summer, Cohen and his family dress in their swimsuits, pack up the kids’ toys and head to the new J Pool. “I think it’s the perfect blend of safety and entertainment,” Cohen said. “Parts of the pool are so shallow and confined that parents don’t need to be a nervous wreck.”

In fact, often parents line the perimeter of the Siwak pool, chatting with one another as they keep a watchful eye on their kids. Esther Cohen, a professional at multitasking, did just that recently as she cheerfully chatted with other mothers while throwing a toy football to her son and twirling her daughter in the pool.

“As a working mom, I’m not able to socialize with other mothers during the week,” Esther Cohen said. “But at the pool we can all hang out and catch up.”

Building friendships

Lifeguard Samantha Stone, 18, monitored the large tree trunk at the pool where she nodded her head and gave the “go” signal to an anxious toddler. He quickly grasped the rope attached to the tree, soared into the air and plunged into the deep end. Stone cautiously watched for his small head to bubble to the surface and for him to exit the water. This continued as Samantha gave the go signal to patient thumb-sucking toddlers as well as confident, sometimes cocky, teens. Finally, the lifeguard had a short break to talk.

She described the pool very affectionately, praising the intensive lifeguard training, the friendly staff and the fun activities.

“We love to swim in the pool and spend time with everyone else here,” she said, referring to the teen lifeguards. “On breaks, we just talk, teach lessons, do camps and hang out together.”

Then she added, before going back on duty: “This is the first job I’ve ever had that I actually have relationships with them outside of work.”

Love connections

Lifeguard John Sutterfield, 20, said these relationships are often more than just friendly. “We call them ‘summer romances,'” he said with a chuckle. “It’s all very public.”

He explained the guards first meet at the pool and then date all through summer. When the J Pool closes for the season, so do the love affairs.

He reported two or three “summer romances” already and it’s only been a month.

“It’s all fun though,” Sutterfield reassured.


Outdoor J Pool Hours at the Staenberg Family Complex

• Mon – Thu:  5:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m 25m Lap Swim available

9-10 a.m. Siwak Family Pool open (children 5 yrs and younger)

11 a.m.-12:30 pm Siwak Family Pool open (children 5 yrs and younger);

12:30-8 p.m. all pool areas open (25y lap swimming)

• Fri: 5:30-10 a.m. 25m Lap Swim available

9-10 a.m. Siwak Family Pool open (children 5 yrs and younger)

11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. all areas open (25y lap swimming)

• Sat & Sun: 7-10 a.m. 25m Lap Swim available

10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. all areas open (25y lap swimming)


• All schedules subject to change

• During camp and swim team, lap lanes may be limited

• Schedules may be altered in August based on back-to-school schedules

For more information, call 314-442-3296 or go to