JCCs Face the Future: Part of a series on how Jewish community centers in the Bay Area are coping with the financial strain of the coronavirus pandemic.
Even as they make plans to ease back into in-person activities later this summer, leaders at the Peninsula JCC, one of the three largest in the Bay Area, are looking at upcoming budget projections and grimacing at an anticipated $9 million shortfall.
“We’re looking at deep and painful staffing cuts, and cuts to services and programs,” CEO Paul Geduldig said in a phone call with J., echoing JCC of San Francisco CEO Marci Glazer when she announced layoffs of about 150 staff members. Geduldig said management is “still working through” how many will need to be laid off in Foster City.
The PJCC, which had close to 10,000 members before the pandemic hit and employed about 380 full- and part-time workers, was forced to close its doors in mid-March along with community centers across the country.
A $1.8 million Paycheck Protection Program loan, a $175,000 grant from the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and other fundraising efforts buoyed the JCC temporarily in the intervening months; it will finish the fiscal year on June 30 with only a small deficit. “It could have been catastrophic, going three months without any revenue” from the fitness center, which accounts for about 60 percent of annual earnings, Geduldig said. “We’ve been working hard to look for additional resources.”
But projections for next year, beginning in July, are “where we see the difficulties,” he added.
Before the pandemic hit, the PJCC was projecting around $20 million in revenue for the next fiscal year, primarily from gym memberships and preschool tuition, which together account for about 85 percent of earnings. Other revenue comes from afterschool programs, summer camps and philanthropy.
Now projections sit around $11 million, a 45 percent decrease.
The fitness center and pools are expected to open in early July after San Mateo County recently announced that gyms could reopen.
Employees are spacing the exercise machines to allow for social distancing while working out. A reservation system will limit the number of people using the gym, and staff are being trained on heightened cleaning protocols.
“We’re taking it very seriously,” Geduldig said, though “we anticipate it’s going to take some time for membership to build back up.”
About 90 percent of fitness center revenue disappeared with the closure (some members chose to keep paying dues). Starting in August, preschool will reopen, but enrollment will be smaller than usual in order to uphold county social distancing rules in the classroom. Summer camp will be offered virtually.
Geduldig has been encouraged by attendance at online events like the Rabbis Roundtable and the scholar-in-residence talks. Some Zumba classes saw 80 people Zoom in, more than could fit in the activity room, he said. The JCC’s Rabbi Lavey Derby has led popular online meditation sessions, and a Yom HaShoah event had 400 attendees.
Virtual events have revealed a demand for remote activities, whether out of necessity or simply convenience, he said. “Virtual programming is going to continue, even after in-person programs come back. There’s a way that this crisis has forced us to examine ways to adapt — we’re going to keep it up when things return.”
For the foreseeable future, Geduldig said, Jewish and senior programming will be exclusively online. “There are other programs that will be scaling back,” he said, though the specifics are still being worked out. The youth basketball league has been canceled.
A former executive director at Oakland’s Temple Sinai, Geduldig has helmed the PJCC since 2015. Over that span, it expanded its work into Jewish programming and Jewish family outreach. It formed partnerships with organizations such as Jewish Youth for Community Action and the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization. Its annual revenue was increasing.
“We were doing quite well until the coronavirus crisis hit,” he said.
“Our JCC has been around for 70 years. We’ve weathered other storms. What we will look like on the other side of this will look a little different … but we’ll adapt. And we’re going to continue to be here and serving people for a long time to come.”