Parts of the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos are back open, but visitors must have their temperature checked. (Photo/Lael Gray)
Parts of the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos are back open, but visitors must have their temperature checked. (Photo/Lael Gray)

Los Gatos JCC’s soft reopening: Pool and summer camp are back, programs stay online

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JCCs Face the Future: Part of a series on how Jewish community centers in the Bay Area are coping with the financial strain of the coronavirus pandemic.

After months of lockdown, the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos is reopening step by step. Make that, splash by splash.

With the Santa Clara County Public Health Department permitting reopening of outdoor athletic facilities, on June 15 the JCC’s outdoor aquatic center and tennis courts opened for members. Social distancing rules still apply, everyone must pass a thermometer test before entering, and masks are required out of the pool.

No one is happier about the soft reopening than APJCC executive director Lael Gray. “So far, it’s great,” she said. “People were so happy to be out, to get in the water. It was very organized, and we got a lot of positive feedback.”

The only complaint she’s received: not enough time in the pool.

The JCC will launch its summer camp for grades 1-8 on June 29, and camp for preschoolers and kindergarteners on July 20. For both camps, only small-group gatherings will be permitted.

Otherwise, programming will remain online for now, including fitness classes and adult learning classes, such as Zoom sessions on creative writing and watercolor painting.

Addison-Penzak, like other JCCs,  was hit hard by the pandemic. Not only was Santa Clara County an early hotspot for the virus, but the shutdown in March meant losing the JCC’s main revenue sources: the fitness center, camps and early childhood education programs.

“We were thriving,” she noted. “We had a robust membership. The biggest complaint was people couldn’t find parking. We went from that to zero overnight.”

Lael Gray
Addison-Penzak JCC executive director Lael Gray

The JCC received a Paycheck Protection Program federal loan (just under $1.1 million), as well as $25,000 from Taube Philanthropies. Gray says they stopped charging membership fees and that some of the nearly 4,000 members converted their dues to donations. All of that cash sustained the facility over the past three months.

Gray is anticipating that the county will allow indoor fitness centers to reopen sometime in July. If so, she says, her JCC will be ready. Beyond that, much remains unclear.

“Reopening is harder than closing,” she said. “There’s a lot to think about.”

The projected $10 million budget for the fiscal year now ending is down by about 20 percent, and next fiscal year Gray expects a reduction of 25 to 50 percent.

“As we look forward to the next part of this year, though the end of December, we are anticipating we will still experience losses every month,” she said. “Our board is grappling with that. We’re trying to come up with new and creative ways to bring in revenue and cut back on expenses.”

That might include reduced programming and a staff reorganization, she said, though she did not anticipate as drastic a retrenchment as was announced by the JCC of San Francisco on June 15. “The primary thing is we want to protect everyone’s health, and protect the JCC’s fiscal health as well,” she said.

On the horizon is a merger with the Silicon Valley Federation, expected to take place before the end of the year. Gray will be CEO of the newly created institution.

As far as the JCC is concerned, Gray believes its mission will help it  survive the pandemic.

“The whole purpose [of the JCC] is the community,” she said. “Right now, especially in this environment, where people are feeling so isolated, the importance of maintaining that sense of community is so clear in everybody’s minds. Where some saw the JCC as the place they work out, now they see it is where their community is, and they feel very supportive of it.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.