Seventy-nine days elapsed between March 13, when the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta closed its doors, and June 1, when those doors reopened.
The JCC was among the local Jewish institutions severely impacted by COVID-19, as the loss of revenue-producing programs resulted in job cuts.
“When we reopen, we won’t look the same overnight,” CEO Jared Powers said during the JCC’s May 27 annual meeting, this year held via the video conferencing platform Zoom.
Even with enhanced health and sanitation procedures the JCC faces a challenge. “We all know that reentering daily life will include some degree of risk and every family will have to make that decision for their own,” Powers told those watching online.
Powers later told the AJT, “We have been in constant communication with medical and public health officials and have made our plans in accordance with guidelines from local, state, and federal agencies, including the CDC,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The COVID-19 emergency fund established by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta provided the JCC with $100,000 to aid in the reopening.
Powers did not answer questions from the AJT about the extent of the financial hit that COVID-19 leveled on the JCC. On a conference call early in the crisis, Powers said that 60 percent of its revenues came from summer programs.
A major program casualty of COVID-19 was summer 2020 at Camp Barney Medintz, the JCC’s overnight camp near Cleveland, Ga.
“Camp Barney” annually attracts more than 1,200 boys and girls, ages 8 to 16, from throughout the southeastern United States and beyond. According to its website, the cost of a two-week session begins at $3,170 for JCC members and a four-week session begins at $4,865, depending on age, with out-of-town or non-members paying slightly higher fees.
The JCC was spared another revenue loss when an executive order issued by Gov. Brian Kemp made it possible to plan for day camps and preschool camps to open.
“Summer Days @ the J,” the June 29 to Aug. 7 day camp for children in age from rising kindergarten to rising sixth grade will cost $350 for members and $400 for non-members per week. “July at the J,” the name given to the preschool program will operate June 29 to Aug. 5.
The day camp plan calls for small groups of 10 campers and two counselors, and outdoor activities on the 52-acre Zaban Park campus that include boating, rope courses, fishing, swimming, archery, along with arts and crafts.
“We know many working parents need a safe and enriching summer program for their children as they head back to work. This program will provide that quality care for your children, and priority placement will be given to families who need childcare,” a statement on the JCC website reads.
In addition, throughout June the JCC is offering 10 “virtual” day camp programs online, the offerings geared to age groups.
During the closure, some JCC programming migrated to online presentation, including preschool and day camp programs, the Lisa F. Brill Institute for Jewish Learning, the Book Festival of the MJCCA, BBYO, and services with Rabbi Brian Glusman.
As phase one of the JCC’s reopening gets underway, Powers and the JCC staff are reshaping its future. “The possibilities here are endless. The Marcus JCC is so fortunate to have its 52-acre Zaban Park campus and a highly creative staff who are always innovating our programs and services. We are currently developing plans for reimagined sports and recreational programs, and we look forward to sharing the details with the community soon,” Powers told the AJT.
Barely two weeks after closing its doors, the JCC announced the layoff or furlough of more than half its employees, citing and anticipated loss of program fees and membership revenue. At the time, Powers said the cuts were part of “necessary, though very difficult, decisions to ensure the long-term future of the Marcus JCC.”
The JCC has declined to answer questions about the number of jobs eliminated. The Federation emergency fund thus far has made grants totaling $310,000 to the JCC to help extend health insurance coverage to those furloughed and laid off.
Powers told the annual meeting that the JCC hopes to bring back a “limited” number of the furloughed employees.
In his remarks to the JCC meeting, Eric Robbins, Federation president and CEO, said, “Yes, this is a time when we’re separated, but I can tell you that community and connection will never be more important than when we find our way out of this thing.”
Ken Winkler, outgoing chair of the JCC board, said in his parting comments, “I am unwavering in my confidence that the MJCCA will see brighter days ahead.”