|Generations of the Rocker Family - L’Dor v’Dor|
An enduring value of Judaism is passing on spiritual knowledge and cultural traditions, l’dor v’dor, from one generation to another, to keep them alive. Making these connections between generations is personified in the lives of the Rocker family, whose ties to The J now extend to the fourth generation.
Only a handful of Clevelanders can lay claim to attending the ribbon cutting for the Mayfield JCC in 1960 and the Mandel JCC in 1986. Count Mikki Eigen Rocker part of that very small group.
Mikki, the daughter of Herman Eigen, the trailblazing executive director of the JCC, says the opening of both facilities were among her father’s proudest moments.
In 1954 Herman Eigen was recruited by Mort Mandel, who was then Board President, to usher in an era of growth for the newly formed JCC. Using skills he acquired as director of the Buffalo JCC, Eigen combined the diverse programs for Young Adults, Golden Agers, Drama and Camp Wise into one cohesive agency. He was also integrally involved in the fundraising and planning for the Mayfield JCC’s opening in 1960, and, 26 years later, its Beachwood successor.
“During his 22 years as The J’s Executive Director, my father saw the JCC as an encompassing umbrella organization whose mission was to create an atmosphere where Jews of all ages and observance were welcomed and encouraged to come together as a vibrant community,” says Mikki.
With her father as a role model, Mikki’s professional and personal path led to The J. As a teen she attended and served as a counselor, at Camp Wise in Painesville.
Joel Eigen, Mikki’s brother, also attended The J’s summer camps. Their mother, Sadie Eigen, a psychiatric social worker, started working in the late 1950s with Dr. Herman Hellerstein. Hellerstein, in collaboration with the Medical School of Western Reserve University, initiated his groundbreaking, heart-healthy exercise program at the Mayfield JCC.
When her children were little in the 1970s, Mikki was instrumental in the creation of The J’s Mom and Me classes and toddler gym classes, many of which continue today.
In 1984 Mikki joined the staff as Special Events Director and formed the Young Women’s Special Events Campaign Cabinet to help fundraise for the new Beachwood building. One of the highlights of that position was coordinating The J’s annual Fine Craft Festival, which ran from 1991-2001.
As Mikki and her husband Michael’s children grew up and married, The J was never far from their lives. All three Rocker children attended The J’s preschool programs and camps, and their son David’s wife, Becky Rocker worked as The J’s marketing manager.
Becky says even if her family did not have a personal connection to The J, she and her husband would have been drawn to the facility.
“The Mandel JCC has everything a young family like ours needs and is an integral part of our lives,” Becky says. “Our daughter Dylan attended preschool, as well as the Francine & Benson Pilloff Family Performing Arts Camp and Anisfield Day Camp. She took swim lessons and attends after school programs. Our twins are already socializing and playing with toddlers at Family Place. We look forward to sending them to The J’s Early Childhood preschool this fall.”
As a fitness enthusiast, Becky knows firsthand how exceptional The J’s fitness facilities and classes are. “The J has helped bring wellness into our lives and has also given us an opportunity to make some of our dearest friends,” she says. “Herman Eigen would have been proud to know his grandchildren and great grandchildren are thriving at his beloved Mandel JCC and that his legacy lives on.”