The new concept, called “Off-Center,” would have the Center lease multi-purpose programming space in new communities.
The Jewish Community Center of Metro Detroit is in the beginning stages of developing a concept called “Off-Center” — a satellite JCC operation to serve as an “east side hub” located in the Berkley/Oak Park area and a possible additional location in Downtown Detroit.
JCC Assistant Executive Director Judy Loebl, who helped conceive of the idea, said this is the latest step in the JCC’s shift from being a “building” to a “concept” — the ability to provide programming to the entire Metro Detroit Jewish community.
The Off-Center idea is part of the JCC’s current strategic plan, though the center has no timeline yet for when the concept might come to fruition. It was discussed by JCC Chief Executive Officer Brian Siegel in a Jan. 8 interview with MyJewishDetroit.
Siegel said the JCC was not looking to build more real estate, but would instead explore “hyper efficient touchpoints of moderate scope and size — approximately 3,000 to 8,000 square feet of floorspace — where the community can easily gather for activities and events.”
Loebl confirmed the JCC would lease, not own, its Off-Center locations, and that they are looking for a multi-purpose space: “Something that could be used from morning to evening.” Possible uses would include “multi-generational programs for the community,” including exercise classes, Judaic studies, senior and children’s programming, and book fairs.
In 2015, the JCC closed its satellite Oak Park location, which upset many community members who used the space for its health club and other amenities. Since then, the JCC has used synagogues and temples, Aish HaTorah and Jewish Senior Life facilities in the Oak Park area for events.
But as they expanded their programming, Loebl said, they began to look for a non-affiliated site of their own.
“We saw the need for a place that the whole community could gather that was neutral,” Loebl said.
The JCC had been close to identifying an Off-Center location in the Oak Park/Berkley area when the pandemic hit and put the search on hold, Loebl said.
In addition to the Oak Park/Berkley location, the JCC is looking at doing more programming in Downtown Detroit, including a potential arrangement with the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, according to Loebl.
The expansion plans come four months after the JCC announced it would be closing the health club at its flagship West Bloomfield campus.
These new plans don’t mean the JCC will stop working with congregations or facilities they’ve partnered with in the past, Loebl said.
“The logistics makes it much easier if you have your own place,” Loebl said.