The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta will reopen in stages, perhaps beginning early June, according to a notice sent May 4 by Jared Powers, the JCC ’s CEO.
“The current guidelines put forth by Governor [Brian] Kemp and the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] allow for the MJCCA to begin opening portions of its facilities and services,” Powers wrote in an email addressed “Dear MJCCA Family.”
“Over the next few weeks, we will continue to consult with public health professionals and make all the needed preparations for an opening with your health and safety as our top priority. We will be back in touch with you around May 15 with details regarding what will be included in the first stage of our reopening.”
The JCC, which interacts with an estimated 60,000 people annually, closed its doors March 13 as a precaution against spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the opening of Camp Barney Medintz, the JCC’s overnight camp near Cleveland, Ga., originally scheduled for June 7, “will be delayed,” Powers said. “We are working through details of a potential July concept that would encompass first and second session campers.”
“Camp Barney” has operated since 1963 and covers 540 acres in the north Georgia mountains. The camp annually attracts more than 1,200 boys and girls, ages 8 to 16, from throughout the southeastern United States and beyond.
According to the Camp Barney website, the cost of a two-week session begins at $3,170 for MJCCA members (slightly higher for out-of-town JCC members or non-members) and a four-week session begins at $4,865 (depending on age and slightly higher for out-of-town or non-members).
The start of the JCC’s various day and preschool camps, with sessions that were to begin May 26, will be delayed until at least June 15. When those camps open, “It will look and feel a bit different than previous summers,” Powers said, without providing details. The day camps have been offered at three locations, the primary site at Zaban Park in Dunwoody, at Emory University, and at Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta.
Powers said that discussions with the JCC’s board and staff were necessary before providing answers to questions about several issues, including what services the JCC would make available, what health precautions would be in effect, whether camp fees will remain as listed or be reduced, and whether day camps would be provided at all three of the facilities as in the past.
The anticipated loss of program fees and membership revenue — the result of closing indefinitely on March 13 — forced the JCC to lay off or furlough more than half of its staff, according to an email Powers sent March 23 to the “MJCC Family.” The JCC did not provide a figure for the number of employees laid off or furloughed, nor for its total number of employees before the facility closed.
In the March 23 notice, Powers said that “we have had to make necessary, though very difficult, decisions to ensure the long-term future of the Marcus JCC. . . . This very difficult decision is what will allow us to serve the community again in transformative ways when we are able to reopen.
“We are offering a variety of benefits to those being furloughed and laid off to ease their transitions,” Powers said. In the first round of grants made from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s COVID-19 emergency fund, the JCC received two allocations: $102,000 to fund three months of health insurance for furloughed workers and $32,000 to do the same for laid off workers.
Cancellation of summer camp programs would be a serious financial blow to the institution’s finances. According to the JCC’s tax return for the fiscal year that ended in August 2018, the most recent available online, 80 percent of its $24.6 million revenue came from “program service revenue,” while 57 percent of its nearly $24.8 million in expenses was “salaries, other compensation, employee benefits.”
During the closure, a variety of JCC programming has 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.