an inscription on the wall: "welcoming strangers -- let your house be open wide, pirkei avot"
Inscriptions on the wall in the main lobby of the JCC of San Francisco. (Photo/Joyce Goldschmid)

A $10M ‘lifeline’ has helped Bay Area JCCs survive big losses during pandemic

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Jewish Community Centers in the Bay Area are still recovering financially from membership losses and closures during the Covid-19 pandemic — but the important thing is they’re still afloat.

Through the Power in Partnership Fund, an initiative led by Taube Philanthropies and the Koum Family Foundation, six Bay Area JCCs have received a combined $10 million over the last two years to help them weather the tough financial straits.

“We felt very strongly that we could not allow them to fail,” said Tad Taube, founder and CEO of Belmont-based Taube Philanthropies.

Distribution of the funds began in the summer of 2021, in amounts based on each JCC’s pre-pandemic annual budget and individual needs.

The JCC of San Francisco, which has fallen to 60% of its pre-pandemic membership, received the largest grant at $3.1 million. The Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, now at roughly 50% of its pre-pandemic membership, received $2.48 million.

(From left) Ron Shalom, Rebecca Deutsch, Tad Taube, Richard Deutsch and Shana Penn at the unveiling of "Chai." (Photo/Saul Bromberger)
Tad Taube (center) and Shana Penn (right) at the unveiling of “Chai,” a musical sculpture at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, in June 2021. (Photo/Saul Bromberger)

“We’re climbing steadily out of it,” said Zack Bodner, president and CEO of the Oshman Family JCC, adding that at one point during the pandemic, membership had dropped to 1,000 households  — down from more than 4,000 before Covid struck in early 2020.

The Peninsula JCC in Foster City received $1.77 million, the Osher Marin JCC $1.1 million, the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos (a program of Jewish Silicon Valley) $924,400 and the Berkeley-based JCC of the East Bay $568,889.

The JCC Sonoma County was invited but ultimately not included due to not having an executive director or “clear direction” for a permanent campus, according to Shana Penn, executive director of Taube Philanthropies. The Contra Costa JCC in Lafayette operates without a building.

Paul Geduldig
Paul Geduldig

Paul Geduldig, CEO of the JCCSF, told J. in an email that “the Power in Partnership Fund was truly critical to keeping the JCCSF afloat as we were met with the ongoing challenges attributed to the unexpected Covid-19 variants impacting our ability to bring back our earned revenue programs in a timely manner.”

He added, “Our financial model is dependent upon an earned revenue base, and these funds allowed us to maintain and restore the necessary staff required to bring back our core programs that serve our community.”

Bodner said his JCC in Palo Alto applied for and received critical funding through federal Payroll Protection Program loans in 2020, and also received emergency funds from Taube Philanthropies (as did five other JCCs).

In early 2021, Taube Philanthropies began discussing more significant, long-term financial support for Bay Area JCCs. Working with the Palo Alto–based Koum Family Foundation, the Power in Partnership Fund was created; 25 local Jewish donors, which included the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, were recruited to make one-time donations that capped at $10 million over the summer.

Zack Bodner, CEO of the Oshman Family JCC, speaks at the unveiling of "Chai," a new musical sculpture on the JCC's campus. (Photo/Saul Bromberger)
Zack Bodner, CEO of the Oshman Family JCC, speaks at an event at the JCC campus in June 2021. (Photo/Saul Bromberger)

Several of the contributors had never donated to a JCC before, while others were longtime supporters.

In addition to Taube and Koum, the list of PIPF donors includes the Federation, the Ruth Reinhard Fletcher Charitable Foundation (Reinhard serves on the board of the JCC Association of North America and was a board member at the JCC in Los Gatos from 1991 to 2020, a run that included three years as board chairman); the Fooksman Family Foundation; the Friend Family Foundation; the Libitzky Family Foundation; and the Harry and Carol Saal Family Fund (family member Susan Steiner Saal is a former OFJCC board member and now on the board of JCCA).

Melissa Chapman
Melissa Chapman

“The PIPF funding was the most important philanthropic oxygen we had,” said Melissa Chapman, CEO of the JCC East Bay, in an email to J. “It allowed us to have breathing room as we all tried to build back, build up and serve our community.”

“They’re still in the process of rebuilding,” Penn said of the JCCs. “They had about 80% earned revenue, which went all the way down the tubes to less than 40%. They needed a lifeline to get through.”

The six JCCs have a short-term goal of reaching 60% earned revenue, Penn added, which she and Taube are optimistic is within reach.

Chapman, Bodner and Geduldig each praised the PIPF for its success in bringing the heads of each JCC together to work collaboratively. They shared their tightly guarded donor lists with one another, working as one community, rather than independent organizations, Penn said.

This month, the six JCC bosses are getting together with some of their biggest donors to strategize together on fundraising goals to continue to stay afloat.

“The collaboration on the PIPF is what really made it so exciting and so successful,” Bodner said. He pointed out that all six JCC heads are “in constant communication” as a result.

Taube and Penn say they’re discussing plans with JCCA, the umbrella network for more than 170 JCCs, to turn the Power in Partnership Fund into a model other clusters of JCC can follow.

“The timing is exciting,” Bodner said, “because it’s going to hopefully inspire other communities around the country to see it and do it, as well.”

Jew,  Jewish,  J. The Jewish News of Northern California
Emma Goss.(Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Emma Goss

Emma Goss is a J. staff writer. She is a Bay Area native and an alum of Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School and Kehillah Jewish High School. Emma also reports for NBC Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter @EmmaAudreyGoss.