David Max Leaves His Mark – From Courtside to Community: A Legacy of Leadership at the JCC

June 20, 2024
David Max with his brothers on the David Max Court

Q: Tell us about your years as a teen at the JCC. 

A: Well, I really started going to the Park Heights JCC when I was in high school. I used to come every week – on weekends and evenings. They would open up the gym, and I’d come to play basketball. I made a lot of friends. It was an important part of my life and after that I never left the J. 

Q: Are any of those people that you connect with today? 

A: Yes. I used to play basketball and workout in a little room that was the whole fitness center. I made friends and it just felt very comfortable to be there. Some of my friends are still there working out. My first date with my wife was playing racquetball at the J 42 years ago.  

Q: Tell us how you ended up joining the JCC board 

A: In my late twenties I joined the Men’s Health Club. At the time the Men’s Health Club was an add on membership to the JCC with spa like services. I got to meet a bunch of the older generation and they taught me about the J and what it meant to them. I met Larry Boltansky’s father, Sam, who convinced me to get on the J Board. He told me I could be impactful and that I could voice a younger person’s opinion. I was around 30 at the time. 

At first, I was mostly involved with health and fitness and looking out for the younger people. I guess the real change came when Buddy [Sapolsky] became our executive director, about 28 years ago. He was so great at engaging the board, and I felt like I had something to offer the J, so that’s why I stuck around. And I became really close with Buddy. 

Q: Can you elaborate more on your relationship with former CEO Buddy Sapolsky and the impact he had on you and your involvement with the JCC/Community. 

A:  The JCC thinks they got a lot out of me, but I think I got a whole lot more out of the J because of Buddy. He was so great at teaching you how to become a leader, getting everybody to come to a consensus on what we were all working on. It was never about him; he always made it about everybody else. I was close to Buddy until he passed away. We would go out for lunch every month and talked all the time. We always joked that when we both retired, we were going to buy a snowball stand at the beach and only offer chocolate snowballs. I had a close relationship with him, and all the past chairs did as well. He was a special person.  

Q: Tell us about your professional work. 

A: My brothers and I own and manage commercial real estate; we have some shopping centers and office buildings, most of the stuff that we’ve done is buying older buildings that needed to be redeveloped.  I always acted as our general contractor, so I understood construction.  

Q: Talk about the highlights of your time as Chair of the JCC Board from 2003-2005. What are you most proud of? What was the major thing you’ve learned from your experience during that time? 

D: I think the thing I learned most was becoming a leader and, what it is to be involved with a bunch of smart people and how to engage other people and trust other people to do their jobs. When I was Board Chair we had to worry about finances and that’s not what I wanted to do so I got Eric Nislow to do that. Eric’s an accountant. He knows what he’s doing.  

During my chairmanship we were doing upgrades to the Park Heights building including creating a new space for the Meyerhoff preschool off the lobby. We also created a new lobby  space and added the café to the atrium, as well as some renovations upstairs that include the Community Room and the CJE offices.  It was a big project.  

In Owings Mills there were also upgrades to the Meyerhoff Fitness Wing. We added the multi-purpose gym and the suspended track, made many upgrades to the preschool, and added the café. We also revised the main lobby – we’ve redone the lobby three times since then. 

We also did major work on the outdoor pools and built the ball fields, the field house, and then rebuilt Camp Milldale. We prioritized what to do first. Several years earlier, Joe Meyerhoff did the Gordon Theater and I joined him on that. That’s how Joe and I became close friends. I’ve made some super friends from my connections at the JCC. 

Q: Talk about your role as the Chair of Building Committee at the JCC.  

A: I was Chair of the Building Committee for about 20 years. I just gave it up two years ago and only had to threaten for three years that I was going to stop before they took me seriously. Jeff Rubin’s in charge now and I’m on the committee. It’s perfect. 

Over the past two decades we redid the second floor, including the teen lounge, art studios, and library (Glick-Liebman Beit Midrash), and the black box theater (Morstein Performa)  in Owings Mills. Recently, we were involved in converting the CSA studio to a group fitness studio and the fitness center upgrades. I was also on the committee for the Gordon Center renovations. 

In addition, we ‘ve made many changes to the Park Heights JCC over the years. We surveyed the Park Heights community about what they thought needed to be done to the building. The pool wasn’t even on our radar, and that came back as the number one item. That convinced me that we might think one way, but when we do surveys, we find out what people really want. We’ve also upgraded the locker rooms a couple times and did J Town. I’m not too involved with the renovations going on right now at Park Heights. 

Q: How else were you and your family involved with the JCC?  

A: Buddy convinced my daughter Amanda to work at the J instead of going to the beach one summer. Danielle worked at Milldale. The JCC was just a good influence, good people to be around and really instilled working hard, the importance of community and the ability to give back. Amanda is now one of the executives at Beth El. And Danielle teaches history at Parkville High School. 

Q: What are your thoughts on the new Gym being named in your honor? 

A: The J’s been a big part of my family, and that’s why I gave the gift I did. I think it’s important to be able to give back, and if you can, you should. Not money, but your time. I sort of wanted to make a statement for all the past chairs. We all have to do our part. I wanted my kids to understand how important it is. My grandkids go to the J for the summer, so they are part of this as well. 

I love the J. It’s a great place. I just wanted it to be there forever for everybody else. That was probably the biggest reason why I got so involved, because I know what it meant to me, and I want to make sure it is there for everybody else. It doesn’t matter how religious you are, and you don’t have to be Jewish either. It’s putting different people in an environment where they can have fun together and learn from each other. In today’s world, that’s big. And from that perspective, it’s a wonderful thing. 

Sign up for our newsletter