JCC is far more than a fitness center
We commend Toby Tabachnick for her thoughtfully reported article, “Job Loss, Salary Reductions Pose New Reality For Local Jewish Non-Profits,” which highlights how the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, JCCs, and other Jewish nonprofits are being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, we take strong issue with comments by Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, which inaccurately describe the role JCCs play in North American Jewish life. Contrary to Sarna’s outdated characterization, JCCs are far more than a fitness center, pool, or basketball court.
In fact, until the pandemic hit, 164 JCCs across North America, the Pittsburgh JCC among the largest and proudest of them, provided: Torah study and Jewish early childhood education, overnight summer camp and youth tennis, meal delivery for seniors and film festivals, and so much more. More than 1.5 million people, including 500,000 friends and neighbors from beyond the Jewish community come to our JCCs each and every week and are served and supported by 38,000 staff members. Together, they are a $1.6-billion Jewish community engine.
From infancy to old age, from ultra-Orthodox to thoroughly secular, from every corner of the political spectrum, and every letter of the identity alphabet, people visit JCCs week after week after week. While levels of participation in many sectors of our community have seen precipitous declines, Jewish engagement through our JCCs has never been higher.
Because the JCC business model relies heavily on fee-for-service revenue, that income stream nearly dried up when JCCs closed for health concerns and state-mandated stay-at-home orders amid the pandemic. To insure that they and other fee-for-service institutions that serve our community will be there for us for in years to come, we are working to raise a $1-billion fund to provide low or no-cost credit for The Day After, to help them and other Jewish institutions severely impacted financially by the pandemic re-open and build anew.
President and CEO, JCC Association of North America
CEO, JCC of Greater Pittsburgh
Virtually connecting in Canada
A note of gratitude for your article March 25 in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle (“Fewer at the table but everyone at the seder”). In the article, you refer to Barbara Weiss and her family plans for a virtual seder given COVID-19 and the challenges of offspring living in two different countries and two different time zones.
The marvels of technology and the fact that I have two sons and family living in both Canada and the U.S. connected me to your article. One son and his family live in Calgary, close by, and one in Salt Lake City. I smiled as I read the article.
There was a link to your article in the I. J. & Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center email. I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where I am an active member of the Calgary JCC. When I visit my son and his family in Salt Lake City, thanks to reciprocal arrangements, it is possible to go to the JCC in Salt Lake. JCCs in North America are wonderful places to visit and feel like family. I continue to get emails and updates from the SLC JCC. I am delighted for this because today I got to read your heartwarming article. It prompted a feeling connection, seeing myself reflected in the stories of others. Thank you.
One note that makes virtual connection somewhat easier in my case is that Calgary is due north of Salt Lake, and while miles away, both are in the same Mountain time zone.
Point Park must be held accountable
The president of Point Park University is doing too little too late. BDS and anti-Semitism on college campuses has fomented for decades, often while faculty and administrators turned a blind eye and brushed it off as free speech and intellectual thought. In many universities this type of speech is not only tolerated, but in many cases, encouraged by faculty. Colleges are no longer places of diverse thought and ideas that are to be discussed and debated. Rather they have become places of one dimensional thinking.
I challenge Paul Hennigan to demonstrate how many faculty and students he has sanctioned for anti-Semitic speech and BDS activities. In addition, Mr. Hennigan has to show what the university’s investigation of the discrimination charges from Channa Newman have produced. Surely if there was religious or racial discrimination the university should have proceeded with an internal investigation. Did they and what did they find?
Finally, I believe that Mr. Hennigan should be transparent and show the Jewish community what steps Point Park University will take to end BDS and anti-Semitism. After all, his university takes our tax dollars and should be held accountable.
Upper St. Clair