As nonprofit facilities, Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and YMCAs receive tax advantages that commercial club operators do not. Even though both JCCs and YMCAs provide services beyond fitness, some commercial club operators complain that these nonprofits are operating at an unfair advantage.

However, most commercial club operators seem to take less of an issue with JCCs than with YMCAs. The fact that only 175 JCCs are considered full-service, meaning they include fitness as well as early childhood programs and camp programs, may have something to do with that. YMCAs, on the other hand, number about 1,600, which means commercial clubs in major cities likely have more than one Y but only one JCC to compete against.

Steve Becker, vice president of health and wellness services at the JCC Association, a New York-based consulting organization that works with JCCs, was once told by an executive who works with commercial clubs that he did not take issue with the JCCs because the JCCs stay close to their mission, closing early on Fridays, remaining closed on Saturdays (or at least not opening until later on Saturdays) and closing for Jewish holidays.

Membership rates at JCCs tend to be “at about market value” when compared to rates being charged at purely commercial clubs, says Dan Burns, director of community and medical fitness centers for San Francisco-based Club One, which manages fitness and wellness for many JCCs. For example, the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill, NJ, offers family memberships at $112 monthly and individual memberships for $60 per month. Not far away, the YMCA of Greater Bergen County, Hackensack, NJ, offers family memberships at $75 and individual adult memberships for $53.

However, some JCCs do offer cheaper memberships. Yearly memberships at the 27,000-square-foot Tampa (FL) JCC can run as low as $450 per year for a family ($37.50 per month), $350 for a single adult ($29 per month) and $200 ($16.66 per month) or less per year for a student or senior. Group classes can be attended for as little as $40 for 11 classes—less than $4 per class—and do not require an annual membership fee.

Membership fees at most JCCs are for membership to the whole JCC, not just the fitness portion, but each JCC is autonomous and can set up its fee structure as it likes, says Anthony Slayen, assistant vice president of health, wellness and membership services at the JCC Association.