JCC Oak Park programs and services to cease operation

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott, Kayla Dimick | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 13, 2015


WEST BLOOMFIELD — The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit announced in a community briefing March 5 that the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit will cease programming and services at the Oak Park facility after Aug. 31.

The JCC is facing a $1.3 million budget deficit this fiscal year, and by halting operations at the Oak Park facility, at least $800,000 in annual loss will be eliminated, officials said in the briefing.

JCC and federation leaders learned in December 2013 that inaccurate financial reports overstating revenues and understating liabilities were produced by the center’s former controller. The employee was terminated immediately after disclosing the inaccurate reports, and no wrongdoing was ever reported.

The Jewish Federation and United Jewish Foundation board members approved a grant totaling $950,000 to the JCC in January 2014 to sustain operations through mid-February 2014.

Jim Issner was hired by the committee as interim CEO of the JCC, and in the late spring of 2014, Issner and Financial One Accounting Inc. reported that the JCC was facing a debt of about $6 million, according to the federation officials in a community briefing published Jan. 6.

Issner did not respond for comment by press time.

In total, the Jewish Federation and the United Jewish Fund have approved $4.3 million in grants to assist with the financial crisis at the JCC, officials said in the March 5 community briefing.

Founded in 1956, the JCC Oak Park location, which is open to the entire community, features a fitness center, camps and educational resources.

Scott Kaufman, CEO of the Jewish Federation, could not be reached for comment by press time.

Some residents are taking it upon themselves to try to save the location. Aaron Tobin, founder of the grass-roots committee Save the Oak Park JCC, said community members are rallying to prevent the complete shutdown of the facility.

Tobin said the group was created after JCC and Jewish Federation officials held public comment meetings for people to ask questions and share their opinions on the closure.

The group was able to convince officials to keep the location open through the end of the summer, Tobin said, and decided to put out an RFP, or a request for proposal, for another local Jewish organization to operate within the facility.

The Save the Oak Park JCC group will be involved in creating a survey for community center members and nonmembers alike to determine what features they would like to see in the next organization that takes over the building.

Tobin said federation officials are discussing how to keep the facility open and running.

“It’s not going to be shuttered. They’re very interested in it remaining a community center,” Tobin said. “They even said they could lease it out at $1 per year and even lose money on it, just to find an alternative solution to this problem.”

The group holds meetings every Monday night at 7 p.m. at the JCC, focusing on fundraising to keep the facility open, Tobin said. 

Tobin also said at least one organization has expressed interest in taking over the facility, but it is unknown at this point who it is.

“We don’t know the future yet, but we’re working strongly with the federation to ensure it remains open and keeps the same programs and facilities open,” Tobin said. “We don’t want to see it close.”

To read the entire community briefing, visit www.jewishdetroit.org.