The decision of the YM-YWHA, Montreal’s Jewish community centre (JCC), to open its facilities on Saturday afternoons has sparked discussion within the Montreal Jewish community.
The leadership of the JCC never expected that every member of the Montreal Jewish community would embrace its decision. However, as is all too often the case, fact and opinion on many aspects of this issue have become blurred and should be clarified for everyone’s benefit.
Did the JCC leadership have the right to make this decision?
Some have argued that the JCC’s leadership did not have the right to make this decision and that a broader community consultation was required. Over the years, the JCC, like other community organizations, has from time to time held focus groups or conducted surveys to help in its decision-making process.
However, the JCC is and has always been governed by a board of directors and a board of trustees. The men and women who make up these bodies have risen to leadership positions as a result of their involvement, in many cases over decades, with the JCC and the community at large. They not only have the right to guide the organization and to make tough decisions on its behalf, they have the duty to do so. They exercise that duty in what they believe to be the best interests of the JCC and the community.
Is the JCC opening on Saturday afternoons in order to make more money?
Like virtually every other community organization, the JCC struggles every year to find the money to fund its vast array of programs. However, the experience of other JCCs in North America demonstrates that the results of opening on Saturday have been, at best, revenue neutral.
If the motivation was not to increase revenues, why is the JCC opening on Saturday afternoons?
Simply put: to be more inclusive. The JCC has a responsibility to reach out to our entire community and to provide a broad range of opportunities to join, connect and engage. Many members of the Jewish community would not exercise on a Saturday and the JCC’s decision will not affect this choice. However, the reality is that many members of the community do choose to exercise, as well as participate in a range of other programs, on Saturday, either alone or with their children. The JCC is recognizing this reality and responding to it by offering these individuals and families the opportunity to enjoy these activities at the JCC. After all, meeting the needs of all members of the Jewish community is at the core of the JCC’s mission.
Won’t this decision take the “J” out of JCC?
We don’t think so.
Some have argued that if the JCC opens on Saturday afternoons, it will become nothing more than a gym. The fact is, the JCC offers a wide range of Jewish programming year-round, including “Shabbat Shalom” programs for toddlers, group bat mitzvah classes for girls, Havdalah parties for families, and much more.
In addition to the Jewish outreach programs at our West Island branch in Pierrefonds, we host two synagogues on Friday nights, Saturdays and Jewish holidays at our Ben Weider branch in Snowdon. Of course, the JCC prides itself on its state-of-the-art physical fitness facilities and sports teams, but anyone who believes the JCC is only a gym probably hasn’t visited us in far too long. Come take a tour of the JCC or browse through our program guide (www.ymywha.com) and see for yourself what the “J” in JCC stands for.
Michael Crelinsten is executive director of the YM-YWHA.