The anticipated loss of program fees and membership revenue — the result of closing indefinitely on March 13 as a COVID-19 precaution — has forced the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta to lay off or furlough more than half of its staff, according to an email sent March 23 by its CEO Jared Powers.
In his message to the “Marcus JCC Family,” 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.”
The JCC did not provide a figure either for the number of employees laid off or furloughed, nor for its total number of employees before the facility closed.
“I cannot even begin to express to you how difficult it was to come this decision; nor how heartbreaking it was to deliver the news to our dedicated staff who have helped bring our stellar programs and services to you and our community, and who have built genuine relationships and friendships with you and your families. My heart is truly pained, as I would imagine many of yours will be as well,” he said.
“The remaining staff (many of whom are our Day Camps, Camp Barney Medintz, and Preschool staff), will take on additional work, fulfill additional roles, and take a reduced salary. This reduction in workforce will not hinder our ability to be up and running as soon as circumstances allow. A decision about Camps will not be made until mid-May,” Powers wrote.
Cancellation of summer camp programs, which generate more than half of the JCC’s revenues, would be a serious financial blow to the institution’s finances.
The JCC interacts with an estimated 60,000 people annually.
A variety of JCC programming has migrated to online presentation, including pre-school and day camp programs, the Lisa F. Brill Institute for Jewish Learning, the Book Festival of the JCC, BBYO, and services with Rabbi Brian Glusman.
“The Marcus JCC is more than just buildings and campuses; we are truly a home away from home. These difficult decisions were made to ensure that our community will continue to have the Marcus JCC to provide its life-changing programs and services when we reopen,” Powers said.
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.”
Atlanta is not the only city where the JCC has slashed staff. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that the Kaiserman JCC outside Philadelphia, which also closed its doors March 13, has laid off 176 of its 178 employees.
Doron Krakow, the CEO of the JCC Association of North America, told JTA that layoffs should be expected throughout the JCC network, which employs about 38,000 people.