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Ray of Hope

L.A.'s JCC board decides to examine business plans of centers slated for closure before making final decisions.


by Michael Aushenker

January 17, 2002 | 7:00 pm

What will become of five Jccs?

The question has still not been answered, but by next week, a resolution will be definitively closer.

Five center must submit their business plans by next week to the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles' (JCCGLA) new transition committee for review. If the facilities can run on a budget-neutral basis, they can remain open.

On Tuesday, delegates from five JCCs centers slated for closure this summer attended a JCCGLA meeting at Valley Cities JCC in Van Nuys, where they had the opportunity make oral presentations on ideas to save their respective centers.

In the closed board meeting that followed, JCCGLA executives decided on next week's deadline for business plans to be given to the Transition Committee. The committee, with the assistance of JCCGLA financial consultant Roni Fischer, will review and analyze the plans, and then decide by early February, on a case-by-case basis, the direction of each center and its programming.

JCCGLA Executive Vice President Nina Lieberman Giladi and Transition Committee chief Marvin Gelfand told The Journal that the deadline for a final decision regarding the centers must be made by early next month, so that parents who want to use the JCC's early-childhood education services can make plans.

Representatives from the impacted centers (Bay Cities JCC, Silver Lake-Los Feliz JCC, Westside JCC, Valley Cities JCC and North Valley JCC) addressed 25 members of the JCCGLA council, headed by JCCGLA President Marty Janoll and Giladi. In their 10-minute statements, they described why their centers are vital to their community and detailed how to keep their facilities operating without interrupting key services.

"Our goal for the next year is to provide education for the 40 Bay City kids plus 20 kids from neighboring synagogues," said Bay Cities' James Barner, accompanied by Dan Grossman.

Mark Frazin, and Cary and Renee Fox of North Valley JCC, want to improve marketing and planning to build their center back to its original 550-family membership.

Silver Lakers Jane Schulman, Devra Weltman and Andrew Thomas painted their facility as the sole Jewish representation in their neighborhood. Weltman --herself a product of North Valley JCC and a decade of JCC's summer camp -- told the room that she bought a home in the area while eight months pregnant because of Silver Lake's JCC.

"I knew what the philosophy would be and where I wanted my child to be," Weltman said.

Michael Kaminsky, Helene Seifer and Deborah Schmidt evoked their successful $119,000 fundraising drive to keep Westside JCC open in the short term, and Mike Bresner, accompanied by Marla Abraham, hope to raise $240,000 to keep Valley Cities operational through 2003.

Members from all five centers at the meeting told The Journal that they were optimistic that a solution could be reached.

"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't," North Valley's Andrea Goodstein said.

JCCGLA has already taken proactive measures to avoid a future financial crisis, which has put five of seven sites in jeopardy and has led to the layoff of 49 employees.

On Jan. 11, JCCGLA announced its plan to revamp its bookkeeping with the hiring of Century City accounting firm Licker+Ozurovich. The firm's founding partner, Andy Ozurovich, will serve as JCCGLA's chief financial officer, overseeing payroll administration, budget preparation, and bookkeeping. JCCGLA hopes to save $200,000 annually.

"What a long way we've come since November," said Gelfand, who cited a groundswell of community outcry and media coverage as prime reasons that JCCGLA's moribund status has segued into serious discussions on salvaging JCC facilities and programs.

Gelfand pointed to fundraisers underway by various centers to raise money, including an upcoming Westside JCC fundraiser featuring musician Peter Himmelman and proceeds from a "Fiddler on the Roof" production.

In what Giladi deemed is still a "fluid situation," the JCCGLA executive commended the community's drive to keep JCCGLA thriving.

"The Jewish Community Centers are an entry-point to the Jewish community," Giladi said, evoking Schulman's speech. "For many people it's not their only entry point but for many it's their sole affiliation."

Part of the JCCGLA's plan to keep its centers alive will center around upcoming fundraising events. Gelfand and Giladi also announced that The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles will offer its entire mailing list to JCCGLA so that the JCCs can execute a direct mail financial support campaign next month.

According to Gelfand, JCCGLA's position mirrors situations that have occurred throughout the 275-center Jewish Community Centers of North America system.

"JCCs do not operate at a profitable basis anywhere in the country," Gelfand said. "Federations throughout the country have helped JCCs. We need to improve our independent fundraising abilities and mechanisms."

The JCCGLA executives said that they have no current plans to solicit donations from the 1,000 JCC of North America members coming to Los Angeles in April for a biennial convention. They question whether it would be an appropriate move.

"I think that right now our community feels energized," Giladi said. "This is a very exciting time. You're talking about an organization that last month was considered dead. So from that perspective, to have the biennial in L.A., I think, 'Wow, what a great opportunity,' because everyone knows that L.A. was in crisis, and we're building to the future. What could be better than that?"

"We all believe very strongly," Gelfand added, "that the JCCs are here to stay and to grow."

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