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Jewish Community Center Closes Friday

Parents taken off guard by Wednesday email about financial difficulties at Tice Valley Boulevard center.

An angry knot of parents and senior citizens gathered Thursday morning in the lobby of the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center and buzzed about the surprise announcement that the revered institution would close Friday.

"We were blindsided," said Linda Hacohen of Walnut Creek, whose son has been at the preschool for five years.

There was no official comment from JCC administration Thursday morning. A parent shared an email that parents received from Robert Rich, JCC president, Wednesday evening, talking about economic difficulties. That is excerpted at the end of this article.

Hacohen said parents had no information about the shortfall in funds and were not given the opportunity to organize fund-raisers to try to save the popular facility on Tice Valley Boulevard that houses the preschool, adult day program and educational programs.

"None of the parents knew about the financial problems," said Greg Berkowitz of Walnut Creek. "They were talking about expanding."

Parent Julie Rabinovitz of Lafayette said she was concerned about staff that was being laid off as of Friday. She said she had prepaid for preschool (for a discount) for the entire school year through June and had been told it would take awhile to get some of her money back.

Rabinovitz said her child had flourished in four years at the preschool and she is scrambling to find another preschool.

Patch learned of this news from an announcement posted by Patch reader Loren Elise Sherdel Schoenstein. Thanks, Loren.

Excerpts from the Dec. 14 email from Robert Rich, president of the JCC:

" … the JCC has struggled to reach and maintain membership and revenue growth sufficient to sustain the many programs the JCC offers. Certainly a difficult economy has not helped matters in recent years.

At an urgent Board meeting last week, it was determined that we are now at a point where the current offerings and corresponding fund-raising activity cannot generate sufficient cash to cover the programs at the Tice Valley facility. Given this, the only course to take was, and is, to suspend the activities of the Millman Adult Day Program, the JCC Preschool, and all other on-site programming, effective Friday, December, 16, 2011. As part of this move, employees will be released and the property will be sold."

Rich writes that the JCC has contacted local Jewish organizations to ask assistance in placement of students, teachers and staff.

Deborah Burstyn December 19, 2011 at 03:09 AM
Thank you for your comment, Phyllis. Forgot about that expanding campus over there at Temple Isiah. So that facility cannibalized the JCC. Isiah is on track to become something like the Marin Osher Center. But for seniors in Rossmoor, the JCC was a convenient easy bus ride. Lafayette is not as accessible.
Carol Olmert December 19, 2011 at 04:25 AM
Phyllis and Deborah, thanks for adding your comments. From where I sit, it just seems the JCC Board gave up the fight without trying hard enough. Did I somehow miss some red flag alerts that were sent to the local Jewish community?
michael frederick December 19, 2011 at 11:06 AM
Carol, I agree + some. JCC was a partner to not only the Jewish community but the Rossmoor community and greater WC, particularly the city. I hope they'll provide a bit more info surrounding their dramatic change of fortune. Because of its ongoing partnership with the city, the JCC received sympathetic review of its plans to transform land it purchased with park zoning -- into condominiums. Thankfully, the city stopped short of approving high density development, offensive to most, to settle on medium density. Nonetheless, we have a JCC group that, after a number of years of presumably successful operation, made a decision to go independent. The only difference being that now the group has a land asset that the city gifted to them worth ~$20 Million -- this is a very rough ball-park figure, based upon JCC's stated objective of erecting ~$35 Million of new construction with the proceeds... Despite this assistance from the city, things are suddenly hopeless??? Now, the group announces plans to sell off its land. Where are the proceeds, particularly from the city's largesse, headed? Will they stay in WC or be sent elsewhere? Does the local group's decision to go independent influence how, where, and to whom the proceeds will land? I don't have any answers, just questions. But, it reminds me of "Andronico's is coming!"... They came and went and now we're all left for the next century with the development they inspired.
Becca December 20, 2011 at 08:04 PM
We've started a facebook page for anyone who would like to leave a JCC memory/photo or read others memories. Thanks! https://www.facebook.com/CCJCCSupporters?sk=wall&filter=1
Jonathan Winchell December 28, 2011 at 09:02 PM
I want to thank everyone for their comments. As a former Board Member I knew they had financial problems but as time went on it was clear there was no programs and no sustainability for the current Preschool and the Millman Center for the elderly to even move forward. In my opinion there were no supplemental programs to keep the Preschool and the Millman Center active because of the separation that happened between the San Francisco Jewish Community Center and the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center and Rabbi Greatz was disappointed when this had happened. I know this from first hand experience. As of know I'm reaching out for people to come to B'nai Shalom and Temple Isaiah to reach out for the people that need our assistance. I have even taken upon myself to promote and work together with the different Synagogues in getting people to come in. This is how I'm opening my heart and soul to this community. I want to take this time in apologizing for the heartache that each parent is going through with the closure of the JCC.

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