Devastating news has come from our seven Bay Area Jewish community centers. As detailed in our series of stories on the state of local JCCs, all have suffered significant financial setbacks because of the coronavirus lockdown. With their doors closed in mid-March, and virtually no revenue coming in since then from in-person programs or gym memberships, they have had to first furlough and then lay off hundreds of employees.
That’s hundreds of people who work for our Jewish community, now without jobs. Many of the remaining employees face salary cuts, part of deep budget slashing announced by most of the JCCs for the coming fiscal year. Some JCCs have reduced their budgets by more than 40 percent, a huge blow that will affect not only the people who work in these institutions, but the thousands of people, Jewish and non-Jewish, served by their programs every year.
JCCs are a foundational pillar of Jewish life. With roots in the Young Men’s Hebrew Associations first created in the 1850s to help newly arrived Jewish immigrants adapt to life in America, today’s JCCs provide family programming, adult education, summer camps and preschools, lectures and concerts, Jewish and Israeli holiday celebrations, book fairs, senior services and so much more.
Like so many other things in our lives, we took our JCCs for granted. We assumed they would always be there.
The JCC of San Francisco, established in 1874, was the first on the West Coast. Stepping into its magnificent, light-filled, ground-floor atrium, watching the bustle of people coming and going, gazing up at the floors of rooms filled with people learning and creating, one cannot help but feel proud of a Jewish community that is thriving, growing and sharing its cultural and intellectual bounty with the general public.
The same feeling comes from stepping into any of our JCCs. The huge public courtyard in Palo Alto, the haimish dance parties in Berkeley, the beautiful swimming pool in Foster City, the impressive theater in Marin — they all give so much to us. And, like so many other things in our lives, we took them for granted. We assumed they would always be there.
Now, our Jewish community centers need our help. We have already suffered the closure of one, the Contra Costa JCC, which abruptly closed its doors in December 2011.
Jan Corran, then executive director of the Reutlinger Community in Danville, spoke of that closure to J. in words that are just as relevant today: “It points out the importance of monitoring our Jewish institutions and … was a wake-up call for the entire Jewish community, to remind us how vulnerable we are.”
We cannot let another JCC disappear.