As debt looms, JCC obtains grant to sustain operations through February

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 12, 2014

 Swimming classes at the Jewish Community Center are one of the many programs for which funding from the class is put toward eliminating the center’s $8 million debt.

Swimming classes at the Jewish Community Center are one of the many programs for which funding from the class is put toward eliminating the center’s $8 million debt.

Photo by Donna Agusti

WEST BLOOMFIELD — The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and United Jewish Foundation board members approved, at a combined meeting Jan. 21, a grant totaling $950,000 to the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit to sustain operations through mid-February.

“The Federation has been a longtime supporter of the JCC and its mission of strengthening and building our community,” said Scott Kaufmann, CEO of the Federation. “We felt like, while there’s a serious financial situation that has to be dealt with, we have to make sure going forward we build a sustainable model.”

In 2012, a task force comprising the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, United Jewish Foundation and JCC representatives assessed the center’s financial structure, according to a community briefing on the Jewish Federation’s website. JCC and federation leaders learned in December 2013 that inaccurate financial reports overstating revenues and understating liabilities were produced and an employee was fired, according to the community briefing.

The task force asked Financial One to act as the JCC’s emergency financial advisor to sort out the center’s long-term financial problems.

The grant fund will be pulled from the United Jewish Foundation’s general fund, which is the Foundation’s reserve for supporting community needs, Kaufman said.

The federation stressed in the community brief that the grant did not come from the donations to the federation’s annual campaign, nor will it diminish funds to other beneficiaries. The JCC is only one of the federation’s beneficiaries.

If the JCC requires additional funding after February, Kaufman said that they are looking at various potential sources for that money.

“It’s likely to need more money going forward before we right the ship,” Kaufman said.

The Jewish Community Center is “absolutely 1,000 percent” not in danger of closing, said Florine Mark, president of the Jewish Community Center. The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, United Jewish Foundation and Financial One are currently reviewing the community center’s finances to ensure a strong financial route, Mark added.

Kaufman said that the JCC’s financial crisis is not a result of the financial misreporting, but the misreporting is a new problem that forced the community to deal with the JCC’s old problem of continuous debt. Preliminary estimates of the looming debt is placed around $8 million, and JCC programs and events provide some relief for the debt, but not completely.

In August, the JCC will host the 2014 Maccabi Games — an Olympic-style sporting competition for Jewish teens — and the center expects about 4,000 participating athletes from around the world.

“We hope to certainly pay down some of our debt, like we always do when we have these wonderful functions,” Mark said. 

Facilities and programs offered by the JCC offer revenue with the help of generous donors who sustain the center, Mark said, adding that there is no chance the center will ever fail to be sustained.

“We will be the best Jewish center in the U.S. for a hundred years to come,” Mark said. “We’re one of the wonderful agencies that is supported by the Jewish Federation. They’re wonderful people who are very supportive and get us through our problems right now, and we’ll go on.”

The JCC is home to thousands of members, Mark said, and to ensure programs and membership fees are affordable to the community, the JCC does not anticipate member prices to increase to tackle the debt. As for the Oak Park facility, Mark said the JCC wants to make sure the facility can be sustained to continue offering the programs for the surrounding population.

“Our Jewish population, especially the Orthodox, need that, and we need them,” Mark said.

The federation stressed that the JCC is too important of a community asset not to support. Serving children, adults and everyone in between, the JCC is the heartbeat of the community, Kaufman said.