United Theological Seminary to explore purchase of Jewish Federation’s Jesse Philips Building

UTS-Jewish Federation

Marshall Weiss


On Aug. 11, United Theological Seminary and the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton signed a contract to explore the sale of the federation’s Jesse Philips Building and the land adjacent to the facility. If the purchase is finalized, the site would become the new campus for UTS, replacing the United Methodist seminary’s current Dayton View location.

According to the terms of the contract, UTS has 120 days to explore the space carefully and secure the funding necessary to make the purchase. If the sale goes through, all of the Jewish Federation’s programs at the location will continue uninterrupted through June 2005. By that date, the Jewish Federation will relocate its north programs and services to new locations, which have yet to be determined.

Debbie Feldman, board president of the Jewish Federation, said that when the opportunity to sell the Trotwood facility to UTS came about, federation leadership agreed the time was right for several reasons.

“”In the Jewish community, we have a shrinking population in the north, which has also led to declining membership at the Dayton Jewish Community Center,” she said. The DJCC, owned and operated by the Jewish Federation, occupies the majority of space in the 78,000 square-foot building. “Since last December, the DJCC at the Jesse Philips Building has lost 415 of its 743 memberships. Only 35 percent of present members are Jewish.”

Reductions in federal and United Way funding as well as Federation’s declining annual United Jewish Campaign have also contributed to the decision, Feldman said.

“It’s a bittersweet choice,” she said. “These changes are difficult for many of us who remember the days when we had a Jewish neighborhood around the Jesse Philips Building, a neighborhood of active participants in the JCC’s wonderful health and fitness programs. Now, our community is geographically dispersed across the Miami Valley. There is much competition from state-of-the-art fitness centers and recreation facilities. The Jesse Philips Building is now draining significant funds from our ability to effectively serve the needs of our Jewish community, both short-term and long-term.”

Seminary staff and trustees went through a lengthy process of examining buildings and facilities and last year decided that the present historic location on Harvard Boulevard would not meet the seminary’s future needs. UTS President G. Edwin Zeiders said, “We are grateful for the hospitality we have received in Trotwood, and we see this move as an exciting possibility for new partnerships and growth.” he said. “We appreciate the cooperation we have received from the Jewish Federation and look forward to a smooth transition.”

The seminary plans to move to the campus and adapt the facility to the needs of a graduate theological seminary. Plans call for the creation of classrooms, library and chapel space.

The Jewish Federation, established in 1910, has owned the campus since 1955, when Dayton’s Jews were moving northward from Dayton View. In 2002, as the Jewish population reached an even split between Dayton’s north and south suburbs, the federation opened the Marjorie and Oscar Boonshoft Center for Jewish Culture and Education in Centerville.

Set on 80 acres, the building is home to the federation’s Dayton Jewish Community Center and its preschool, Jewish Family Services, United Jewish Campaign, The Dayton Jewish Observer, and Jewish Federation’s administrative offices. The potential sale of the building does not include Covenant House or Covenant Manor, a 50-unit apartment complex for senior citizens, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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