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Detroit Area JCC Survives for Now

A Jewish Community Center in a suburban Detroit community with a large Orthodox Jewish population will likely remain open until at least September as it tries to overcome financial difficulties. 

A Jewish Community Center in suburban Detroit that has been beset by financial trouble for more than a year will have until at least September to stay open and try to right the ship.

Ted Cohen, chief marketing officer for the Jewish Federation of Detroit, says the reprieve is the result of a recent open forum to discuss what to do with the Oak Park JCC on 10 Mile Road in Oak Park, MI. 

Oak Park, one of two buildings owned by the Jewish Federation of Detroit, was built in the late 1950s. It has an Olympic-size swimming pool, a health club, summer camps, classes, babysitting services and cultural programming. It is sitiuated on a Jewish community campus that includes a senior residence. The organization also has a facility in West Bloomfield, MI, about 30 miles away.

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit announced early this month that a committee would recommend shutting down the Oak Park building in light of annual losses of $1 million and a total deficit of $6 million. After the JCC's financial problems became apparent in late 2013, a financial oversight committee composed of JCC and federation leaders was established to assess the JCC's finances and oversee its operations. An outside accounting firm hired by the committee brought to light the extent of the budget shortfall, most of which was tied to the Oak Park building.

Cohen, though, called the rumored shutdown "only a recommendation" by the committee.

"The earliest it would close would be September 1st," he says. "There is now a fair amount of momentum to find some other financial solution, be it to increase membership or something else."

Cohen noted that although other fitness clubs have moved into the area, few if any offer services tailored to the area's large Orthodox Jewish community. As an example, he cited the cultural norm in the Orthodox Jewish community of having separate and distinct open swim hours for men and women.

"Even if they close the building, we will look for ways to offer services to the community," Cohen says. "Once the reality [of closure] became public, a lot happened. We have open forum discussions and a community-based workforce addressing the issue. Maybe we can still use that facility but defray some of the costs. We expect other solutions to be talked about, too." 

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