The Jewish Community Center
The Jewish Community Center. (Courtesy of JCC Facebook)

The Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Metropolitan Detroit is planning to restart some activities.

In May, most staff members at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Metropolitan Detroit were temporarily laid off, as COVID-19 restrictions kept many of its facilities closed. Now, many staff members are returning to work.

“We are bringing people back as programs come back,” says Brian Siegel, the JCC’s CEO. He adds that there were no permanent job cuts.

According to Heidi Budaj, assistant executive director of the JCC, a small number of staff members continued to work, although from home, because some programs continued virtually even when the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Building in West Bloomfield was mainly closed.

Several months ago, “We made the heartbreaking decision not to open the day camp,” Budaj says. However, the outdoor pool reopened in July after changes in state guidelines. Even though swimmers need to sign up a day in advance with limits on mingling and total participants, “The feedback has been incredibly positive,” Budaj reports.

Opening other sports and recreational facilities will depend on changes in state regulations. The JCC is not planning to reopen basketball leagues, according to Budaj.

However, the Center is planning to restart some other activities, giving a high priority to family programs. The child development center will open in early September with a much reduced capacity, using a pod format to limit close interaction to small groups of children, as well as other safety measures, to reduce the risk for COVID transmission. Budaj says that teen programs will be running soon.

JFamily, which focuses on building community, as well as providing support and education to all Jewish families, has been running virtually since March. Mikki Frank, senior director of JFamily, says that JBaby and PJ Library programs were quickly transitioned to online modalities. She says JBaby’s four-week prenatal program attracted a full class on Zoom. Bris 101, a live program with a rabbi and a mohel, as well as 10 to 20 couples present with them, was disseminated on a virtual platform and attracted increased participation.

The JCC’s popular PJ Library program has continued both online and with some new additions. It is part of a national program that provides Jewish-themed, age-appropriate books to 2,300 local children at no cost.

This September, participating families can pick up “It’s in the Bag” to “help families do Jewish in their homes for the high holidays. Also, PJ Library recently launched “Good Night Zoom” for children, a 15-minute program of bedtime stories and songs available on FaceBook.

A small scale in-person program is being held in September for babies up to one year in age, separated by their placement on blankets to a safe distance.

Budaj says that the JCC is offering a “robust catalogue” of educational and senior programming. Its extensive JLearn adult education program, now online, has partnered with communities throughout the state, supported by the Ravitz Foundation.

The JCC’s Institute for Retired Professional now has fewer in-person discussions and relies more on Zoom and online programs.

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  1. Why don’t you interview some on the long standing members that have been left in the dark. They have had six months to develop a plan. You all were paid all this time you should have been devising a plan when the Governor gave the ok instead of thinking about it after the order to open yesterday.

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