The Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore recently announced it has furloughed more than 350 full-time and part-time employees at its Park Heights and Owings Mills campuses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a video released to the the center’s membership on Apr. 24, Barak Herman, chief executive officer of the JCC, said, “Being closed has had a devastating impact on our financials. Earlier this week, the JCC had to announce a furlough that now totals over 350 staff. The remaining under-50 staff are working with me on our virtual content to ensure that we continue to stay connected to our community. At the same time, a small group of staff is working with me to ensure that when we open our JCCs, they are safe and secure for all of you to come back to your home away from home.”

An accompanying letter from Hermann and board chair Randi Buergenthal said that among the furloughed employees are all of the JCC’s preschool teachers.

“Faced with an indefinite closure, we had no choice but to reduce our workforce in all departments,” the letter stated. “The JCC Board of Directors approved our desire to pay both the employer and employee portion of our furloughed employees’ medical insurance to provide them with additional cash relief. Thanks to our partners at The Associated [Jewish Federation of Baltimore], we are able to make this happen. 

“In addition, our [human relations] department is providing guidance to help navigate the unemployment system,” Hermann and Buergenthal wrote. “We are working closely with our Associated sister agency, Jewish Community Services, to connect our staff with support services available in our community.”

JCC Owings Mills overall
The Owings Mills JCC
(Photo by Scott Kiewe, Jmore)

In the video, Herman said the JCC is working diligently to determine when the centers can safely reopen but that the future is uncertain since “we are waiting for the government to give us direction.”

Around the nation, scores of JCCs have laid off or furloughed hundreds of employees because of the pandemic and its impact on the economy.

Doron Krakow, CEO of the JCC Association of North America, told JTA recently that he expects massive layoffs at his network of community centers, impacting many of the approximately 38,000 JCC employees around the country.

“The coronavirus pandemic has presented an abundance of complex issues for our Associated system which require a great deal of thought and decisive action,” Associated President Marc B. Terrill said in a statement. “Our JCC of Greater Baltimore has been particularly hard hit by the impact of the coronavirus, causing significant loss of revenue. Their decision to furlough staff is incredibly painful for the JCC and was made after exhausting all other options. Our collective intent has been to avoid disruption for our system. That said, opposing forces have made that quite difficult.”

Since closing on Mar. 15, the JCC has offered a wide variety of virtual programming, including fitness and yoga classes, holiday celebrations, Women’s History Month content and musical performances.

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