The Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Monmouth County, Deal, NJ, remains open despite financial difficulties that resulted in its filing for bankruptcy on Dec 5. Operating on memberships and donations from community members, the 110,000-square-foot Ruth Hyman JCC has evaded three Monmouth County Sheriff's sales after TD Bank initiated foreclosure on the facility in spring 2011.
The facility's 2009 IRS 990 form foreshadowed the financial complications to come with total expenses outnumbering total revenue by $588,017 up from the previous year's $240,286. While fund balances decreased by almost $700,000, three JCC board members loaned the facility funds for operating costs. Board chair member Donald Epstein loaned $419,174, board president Stephen Levy loaned $80,000 and former board president Brian Krost chipped in $150,000.
However, the financial difficulties progressed as enrollment at the Center Play School declined from 90 students in 2009 to 51 students in 2011. Other significant financial setbacks at the JCC during the past year included a reduction in camp enrollment, which was the facility's largest source of revenue in 2009 with more than $1.5 million, the collapse of the gym roof, which caused parts of the JCC to close for six months, and declining revenues from membership. Executive Director Aaron Rosenfeld left in June to take a job at the JCC of Omaha, NE. Levy then stepped into the executive director role.
The Jewish Federation of Monmouth County had offered its support to the facility after the announcement of the initial sheriff's sale in October. With additional support from the Deal Sephardic Network and community stakeholders who expressed interest in providing emergency funding to the facility, TD Bank postponed the foreclosure sale in hopes of renegotiating the facility's debt.
"This is a problem money alone will not solve," Keith Krivitzky, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, told Club Industry. "While the debts facing the JCC are significant, the fundamental issue is the need to identify a going-forward role and business model for a Jewish community center. We continue working with the current JCC leadership to get an accurate picture of operations and liabilities, with an eye to seeing whether a viable business model can be developed. At the same time, we have been working to ensure the long-term viability of the particular programs we support with our allocations through the JCC."
Then, on Dec. 2, the JCC closed its Center Play School, which had served the community for nearly 50 years. The JCC preschool was operating at a significant loss each month, and payroll for December could not be met, Levy told New Jersey Jewish News.
Levy notified the preschool director of the closure by e-mail on the Friday afternoon of the closure, leaving teachers to notify parents to find an alternative school for their children by the following Monday.
The preschool closed despite the Jewish Federation making a grant to the preschool and several other programs at the JCC. The Jewish Federation also loaned money to the facility to assist with the financial difficulties. No longer able to postpone the impending sheriff's sale, the JCC filed for bankruptcy on Dec. 5 to stop the sale of the building, which was valued at $6.5 million.
The bankruptcy allows the JCC to remain open while reconfiguring its finances. In a letter to JCC members posted on the facility's website just four days after filing for bankruptcy, Levy addressed the plans of the board.
"We are still continuing our talks to see how we can come together as a community to refinance and revitalize the JCC," Levy wrote. "We now have a bit of breathing room with respect to our prior bills, which are set aside for the current time period. Our intention is to keep the facility open and to provide as many programs as we can, while we plan for the future."
Levy went on to encourage members to continue their memberships, pledges and support, adding: "No matter how much money we raise to solve some of the current problems, it will mean nothing unless our membership continues to support our agency, either as a member or benefactor. We will require current funds to pay current bills, if we wish to survive. Please do what you can to help. This building was not built by any one part of our community. It was constructed with money from a cross section of the community. It can only survive if we all come together to support the institution that supports the whole community."
Currently, the two gymnasiums and fitness centers as well as conference rooms are open to members. The JCC's performing arts center has performances scheduled through March as well as an additional lineup of events to be announced. The two tenants of the building, Yeshiva at the Jersey Shore and the J Café, continue to operate, but the facility's indoor pool is closed and group fitness programs are no longer being held. The only employees remaining are maintenance staff, one finance department staff member and physical education staff members who operate programs for the other tenants of the building.