Just two months before its probable closure, the Silver Lake Independent Jewish Community Center has gained a new lease on life thanks to the efforts of a benevolent high-ranking member of the Episcopal Church.
In a bid to save the center, Bishop Jon Bruno of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has joined forces with the Silver Lake group and jointly purchased the property from its owner, the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA). The $2.1-million deal closed April 20 and gives the Episcopalians a 49 percent ownership stake and the Silver Lake supporters a 51 percent share. They will share the facility, with the Diocese planning to hold Sunday services and night programming.
"I'm thrilled. I'm in heaven. It's still hard to believe we did it," said Silver Lake president Janie Schulman, who spearheaded efforts to save the center, which has more than 100 children enrolled in its preschool and kindergarten and offers many social, education and cultural programs.
Bruno grew up in the area and played basketball at the center in his youth. He dipped into a church discretionary fund to help with the purchase.
If Silver Lake proponents had failed to purchase the property, JCCGLA planned to put it on the market and shutter the center June 30, Schulman said.
For Silver Lake supporters, the sale represents a happy ending to their four-year struggle to keep alive what they consider an important piece of Jewish Los Angeles that has helped create a sense of community among Jews in Silver Lake, Echo Park and Los Feliz.
Even though Silver Lake has constantly made a profit in recent years, its fate was tied to the JCCGLA, the property's owner and, until recently, the overseer of the cities Jewish community centers. Plagued by financial mismanagement and debt, the JCCGLA shuttered the Conejo Valley JCC and the Bay Cities JCC threatened repeatedly to sell Silver Lake -- much to the chagrin of its supporters. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, one of the Southland's largest philanthropic groups, held a $550,000 lien on the Silver Lake property.
The Federation, long criticized for failing to forgive the debt that Silver Lake inherited from JCCGLA, contributed no money to the recent purchase. Instead, Bruno, individual contributions from center supporters and a loan from Far East National Bank made the deal possible, Schulman said. The Federation, which in recent years has allocated more than more than $2 million in total subsidies and free services to Valley Cities JCC in Sherman Oaks, the Westside JCC and West Valley JCC, has offered Silver Lake no financial support.
"My focus is on the terrific new partnership and looking forward," said Jenny Isaacson, a Silver Lake board member. "That [relations with the Federation] is water under the bridge."