Allow the JCC in Berkeley to fade away No way!

It’s never fun to report bad news, but when things go wrong in the Bay Area Jewish community, j. readers need to know. Our cover story on the fiscal crisis at the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay is a case in point.

The JCC in Berkeley is no stranger to money worries. Over its 28-year history, we have often reported on its precarious financial health. Every time, the JCC and its dedicated lay and professional leadership managed to bounce back.

This current crisis seems more severe. Layoffs, programming cutbacks and the potential to lose core services present an ominous picture. We pray the fundraising efforts now under way will stanch the bleeding and get the JCC out of crisis mode.

Moreover, we anticipate the JCC leadership will enact new financial and managerial policies to ensure this kind of scare never happens again.

That won’t happen by wishing. It will only happen if East Bay Jews come together and offer meaningful financial support to the JCC.

This institution has some built-in disadvantages. Housed in a former school constructed almost 100 years, it’s small and unassuming. There’s no pool or fitness center. And because the building is a historical landmark, it’s likely that no major remodeling will ever be in the cards.

So can a “mom-and-pop” JCC like this survive in an era of gleaming, modern JCC structures such as the ones in San Francisco, Redwood City and Marin and the one under construction in Palo Alto? Even the JCC in Contra Costa, though more modest, is a large, full-service institution with a multimillion-dollar remodel on the drawing board.

We don’t know the answer to that question, but we do know the Berkeley JCC also has much going for it. With its pre-school, after-school camps and free kosher lunch programs, it is a lifeline for parents and seniors. It also has served as a kind of Jewish spiritual incubator, a place where the Jewish Music Festival and the popular Shavuot tikkun started, and where Aquarian Minyan held its first services. And it’s hard to beat its central location on the fringes of Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto.

In short, we all need the JCC, and we need it to be strong and healthy.

A few weeks ago, we reported on Traveling Jewish Theatre’s dire financial problems, which caused the company to cut short its current season. And now the JCC. These two don’t necessarily add up to a trend, but they are disquieting examples of a Jewish community that might be struggling.

Let us never run from our problems. Rather, let us confront the financial realities, come together and support the wonderful Jewish institutions that make us who and what we are.