Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

JCCs: Subsidized Work-Outs for the Goyim

Posted by Oyster on August 20, 2007

JCC wasteA quick history lesson:

JCC’s started out as the YMHA, the Jewish answer to the exclusive YMCA (yes, boys and girls, the ‘C’ stands for Buddy Christ). Let me bring you all up to speed. There are no more Jew Quotas at Harvard. A man has landed on the moon. You are reading this webpage on the interwebz.

So why, especially in the Bay Area, are the federations pouring all their money into making huge gymnasia? It doesn’t make any sense. It is not something intrinsically Jewish (y’all best be refreshin’ your memory about why we kicked Greek ass & took names on Hannukah a few centuries back). In the Bay Area, with a very spread-out Jewish population, most of the members (let alone the professional staff) are mostly non-Jews. Now, that’s not a bad thing, per se. But it’s neither necessarily a good thing, and I have yet to hear a convincing argument from anyone.

Some have advocated the reasoning that this is something that raises money for the federations. Oh, really? Okay, so let’s take a big step back and think about all the ways that federations can invest money to make money, if that’s the only reason to have a JCC. How about taking those millions, and plunking it down in a conservatively-managed mutual fund? And now we’re talkin’ about something intrinsically Jewish! Heh, j/k folks. The point being that if making bank were the justification, then running a sweat mill is hardly the most lucrative of investment options.

So answer me this: why should I donate money to the federation, if they’re just going to throw money at wasteful boon-doggles like fancy-shmancy gymnasia? The Addison-Penzak JCC has been bailed out by the Silicon Valley Federation already a few times, so I hear. Perhaps I’d change my tune if they could show me that somehow young Jews were flocking to these muscle palaces like a rabbi to a lox & shmear. But nothing could be further from the truth. They’re fitness centers, managed my non-Jews, where the patrons are a majority non-Jewish.

Am I the only crazy one here??

Oh, how my heart bleeds for those poor goyim, who need the Jews to provide them with luxurious workout facilities! Complimentary towels and q-tips! Flat-panel TV’s in front of every nautilus machine! G-d forbid a goy should work out and not be entertained with commercials! I’d just plotz at the very notion!

Hey, here’s a crazy idea. Invest those millions in making Jewish dayschool education affordable and high-quality. That will be a real service to the Jewish community. Or how about providing services for local Jewish organizations, like room space charges waived or deeply discounted?

I’m sick of waiting for a sober explanation of why JCC’s make sense. From now on I’m calling them GFCs: Goy Fitness Centers.


26 Responses to “JCCs: Subsidized Work-Outs for the Goyim”

  1. jlifer fo' sho' said

    hear hear! and i can’t even go check out hunky jewish men at the gym, cuz they’re mostly non-Jewish.

  2. whitefrodude said

    The worst part is that money that actually gets put into that JCC doesn’t do what it was intended to do. Take the teen lounge for example. A loarge screen tv, pool table, xbox, playstation 2, ping pong table, foosball table, surround sound, and two computers are just a few of the things that we in the lounge and that has been closed for almost a year now.

  3. Dina said

    Instead of whining about how you see things I invite you to attend a Federation allocations meeting and have an impact on deciding where Federation dollars go. Maybe you can actually learn something about where the moneys are allocated and not complain loudly about mere observations, which happen to be false. Join the YAD board and have a say. These kind of articles are so frustrating to me because you don’t know the facts or the impact Federation dollars have on our local community and overseas. And if we stop our support of the Federation system it’s not the gyms that are going to suffer but those day school children you mention, and our senior citizens, and Jews in need all over the world. And just so you know, there is plenty of investing going in. I urge you to educate yourself and then write a follow up. I’ll support whatever your next article is if you do your homework and learn about Federation allocations. And maybe a trip to the gym isn’t such a bad thing.

  4. whitefrodude said


    What about the teen lounge? And I think the point being made is valid becasue if you look at the mission statement of the Silicon Valley JCC it says “The APJCC provides for the social, cultural, educational and recreational needs of our members and serves as the common meeting place of the entire Jewish and general community.” I’m sorry but any place can serve as a common meeting place for the entire Jewish and general community. The JCC should be a common meeting place for the entire Jewish community PERIOD. If it is for everyone call it a community center not a Jewish Community Center.

  5. Irrelevant JCC said

    I believe differently regarding the building of massive JCCs and the pouring of money into them. I don’t believe they believe building gyms is the best allocation of money. BUT, they are so desperate to be relevant, and to attract the younger generation (20-35 year olds) that this is the best idea they could come up with.

  6. lchaimlover said

    I think it is important to note that most of the people commenting on this article have been involved with or worked at the JCC. I don’t know if I agree that they are false observations.

    But I do feel that the Jewish does need to be put back in the JCC. And that is not a false observation, that is a widely held feeling, all around the country.

  7. JB said


    RE: the teen lounge, the reason for its closure (and the closure is only for unsupervised teens; it is still available for programming) was the trashing of most of the equipment you mentioned (the pool table and air hockey table, for instance, are completely broken) by the teens who came to use it.


    I disagree with your premise that JCC having a gym with membership open to non-Jews means dropping support of Federation, which is responsible for, as Dina says, fundraising in support of the entire Jewish community. Federation’s allocation to JCC is mainly for the Jewish programs (classes, having a community Rabbi, holiday programming, etc…). The gym exists to pay the rest of the bills for JCC. If you are upset with the way JCC operates, that is one thing, but to withhold support for the rest of the community over the fact that non-Jews come to use the gym doesn’t seem the most productive way to go about it.

  8. whitefrodude said


    The teen lounge was closed because the person in charge did not know how to run it. I know because I worked there before it got destroyed. I don’t want to speak badly about anyone so I can’t go into depth about my argument but just know that when someone was there as a supervisor for the teens that wanted to drop in everything was fine. Also can you tell me what programming there is for teens because the website only has last years information on it and as far as i know there is no real teen programming going on.

  9. Oyster said

    To Dina & JB:

    First off, let me just take the time to be clear that though I might
    disagree with your views, please do not take my arguments
    personally. I’ll try my utmost to keep my arguments to the facts of
    the topic at hand, and not let it become personal.

    Let me concede that I’ve been sloppy in making a clear distinction
    between the Jewish Federation and the JCC. In SF, the distinction is
    much clearer than in the south bay, since in the City they are
    literally on opposite sides of town from one another. The Harkonen
    Palace in LG is all smushed into one building. I generally now do
    believe in supporting the Jewish Federation (financially & otherwise),
    but their blind commitment to financing mega-gymnasia for the sake of
    “that’s what we’ve always done” just doesn’t sit well with me.

    Dina, you are right that I do not have all the relevant facts at
    hand. I think I recalled that the JCCs and/or the Federations posted
    up their annual financial reports online. Do you think you could point
    us to where we can take a look at that?


    And maybe a trip to the gym isn’t such a bad thing.

    L-rd knows I should swing by my neighborhood 24-hr Fitness more
    often. :-p

    Let me boil down my critique to a few specific points, and perhaps you
    two can respond to them:

    * JCC’s are a historical artifact, and there’s no real reason why
    Jewish communities build them.

    * JCC’s fitness membership are majority not-Jewish.

    * JCC’s focus so much on the fitness aspect, that they under-serve
    their mission to support the Jewish community in other ways.

  10. Eva said

    I never visited the JCC gyms, but I’d think they give the opportunity for people to use the gyms in the proper Jewish way- women seperate from men; but I’m not arguing either way.

  11. Oyster said

    Good point, Eva!

    Wouldn’t it be great if they had certain hours or nights, where the gym was “Men only”, and then “Women only”? That way, the entire Jewish community could truly participate.

  12. JB said


    I couldn’t tell you what teen activities actually go on at JCC. I am sure you know of that more than I do. I do know that the plan is to have a BBYO regional advisor working out of JCC, so that might be something.


    Thanks for the clarification. I know I get a little defensive about some of these topics, but I do appreciate the candor with which they are written and of which they are spoken. (I think that was grammatically correct?)

    I can’t really respond to your first point that JCCs are a historical artifact since my response would simply be to disagree. However, on numbers 2 and 3, I agree with you to some extent. Yes, the JCCs in this area have a majority of fitness members as non-Jews. I believe the APJCC is something like 55-60% non-Jews, though don’t quote me on that. Someone in the membership office would know better. I don’t believe that this is for lack of trying to attract additional Jewish members, though I don’t think anyone would argue that (at least in the case of the APJCC) their marketing toward Jews has been too effective. And yes, JCCs focus on the fitness aspect. However, I believe that this focus is justified. Fitness memberships pay the bills. The majority of JCC members (yes, even the Jews) are members for the sake of the gym.

  13. lchaimlover said

    This comment is specific to the South Bay Community:
    Last Year, the Federation allocated $640,000 to the South Bay community, $210,000 (nearly 1/3) went to the JCC. I feel this speaks for itself, on how much our Federation is investing in the JCC to be a “vital Jewish Institution”.

    source: http://www.jvalley.org/benalloc06_07.html

  14. Oyster said

    Ergo, ~$105,000, or ~1/6th of it goes to fat eradication scholarships for non-MOTs.

    I’m sure my kids (B”H), priced out of Jewish education, will understand one day…

  15. AaronfromWG said

    A real Jewish Community Center is a SYNAGOGUE. If anyone is familiar with Mormons than you’ll know that they build basketball courts within theIr churches. If we value this stuff then they should do some expensive gym add ons to our local Synagogues. I suspect we would rather just go to 24 hour fitness. You can’t beat $17/month.

  16. Oyster said

    Whoops! That should be the Addison-ProzacPenzak JCC, not Albert Schultz…

  17. Oyster said


    The Catholics next to CBD also have a basketball hoop in their expansion hall, which CBD uses as overflow for the high holy days. Perhaps those giant-T loving monotheists are on to something??

    Speaking of the appropriate place for non-Jews who want to go work out, I just got back from 24-hr Fitness! I heeded Dina’s advice, and hit the pool.

    But you raise a good point. Nothing will increase participation in synagogue life than complimentary q-tips, plasma screens in the pews, and subsidized shul-dues for non-Jews. :-p

  18. Oyster said


    And yes, JCCs focus on the fitness aspect. However, I believe that this focus is justified. Fitness memberships pay the bills. The majority of JCC members (yes, even the Jews) are members for the sake of the gym.

    But is that what is meant by, ‘Jewish *Community* Center’? As we all know, the fitness focus of JCC’s comes from their roots as Jewy YMCA’s. But I do hope to believe and dream that the Jewish community is much more substantial than just working out, and a center that truly supports and reflects all the aspects of *community* would be a much more welcome resource in my eyes.

  19. JB said


    Of course JCC is more than a fitness center. There is a Jewish pre-school (they have actually won awards for their Jewish content), a summer camp, classes ranging from fitness to dancing to Hebrew and introduction to Judaism, holiday programming, pre-Shabbat Friday lunches for seniors, and more. There is a new Shelicha working out of JCC, as well as a new community Rabbi. However, the bills are paid through fitness memberships. Please, before saying that a JCC is simply a subsidized gym for non-Jews, do a little more research into what actually goes on.

  20. whitefrodude said


    If the bills are paid through memberships were is the $210,000 going that the federation gives every year to the JCC. Looking at most of the classes tehy offer, participants have to pay or if they are free they are sponsored by temples in the area.

  21. AaronfromWG said

    I was working for an agency that is located at the JCC while the summer camp was in session. It had virtually no Jewish content but I don’t blame them since most of the kids aren’t Jewish anyway. Is my Fed. donation going to subsidize the JCC which then subsidizes non-Jewish kids to have a non-Jewish camp experience.

  22. Oyster said


    However, the bills are paid through fitness memberships.

    Here we return to the issue of the JCC as a cash-cow that supports other Jewish activities. I will take your descriptions of Jewish activities at the JCC at your word, and I won’t challenge them.

    I’m no CPA or Steinhardt-like investing whiz, but I can guarantee you that if the APJCC took the gazillions that it invested in building their new facility, plus $210,000 in annual allocations from the Feds, and put them into conservatively-managed mutual funds, they’d make more money than they are currently making on gym memberships.

    If the only justification for the existence of the fitness-center function of the JCC is to be a revenue source, then in that utilitarian assessment, it is not the best method to bring in money.

    This isn’t applicable to all JCC’s, but the business model of the APJCC is particularly flawed. There are two country-club / fitness facilities within 1 to 2 miles of it that they compete with for business.

  23. jfriendly said

    Let me first clarify that the Levy Family Campus (LFC)is owned and operated by the Jewish Fed. The APJCC is a tenant. Prior to the LFC, the 9 acres were owned by the APJCC. In order to build this campus the JFED purchased the land and in exchange, promised a multi year guarantee of $210,000 which I think may be up this year. Once this is up, the APJCC will go through the identical allocations process as the other beneficiary agencies.
    JFed built the campus in order for the Jewish community to have a home it could be proud of and it is obvious that they are.

  24. Oyster said


    The APJCC is a tenant.

    I’d love to believe that, that they are merely a tenant. Like a Yiddish class or tennis lessons.

    What is the Federation going to do if the APJCC is naughty? Are they gonna kick them to the curb, and throw out all the fitness equipment? And rip out the showers, pool, basketball courts, and gymnasia?

    Hardly. It would take some serious backbone for the SV Fed. to do that.

  25. Jfriendly:
    JFed built the campus in order for the Jewish community to have a home it could be proud of and it is obvious that they are.

    I disagree. I personally don’t feel it is a home. It has a very corporate feel and doesn’t look homey or inviting. It’s not a place I think of when I’m looking for a Jewish place to hangout with my friends. Aesthetics aside I feel it is something only some of the community is proud of. But I feel many young adults don’t fit into that group, as this thread and conversations with my peers show.

    I also feel that pointing fingers and placing blame on JFed or JCC isn’t what matters. Together as part of the Campus they have created issues. It may be money issues, marketing issues, programming issues or combinations of these and others. But they seem to only be continuing in the same path. Adding new staff positions is great, but it doesn’t seem to have brought greater change with it. Young Adults are getting a very different impression of the campus and the organizations it houses then the image and functions the orgs. claim to be striving for.

    Families with young kids and seniors may relate to the Campus and it’s orgs., but young adults aren’t included in that, even with SVYAD.

  26. minsky said

    I disagree with Dina. I have my own experience working in Jewish communities, especially abroad, and I have yet to see any of your money. Please, let me join your committee and I will be more than happy to steer some of that cash in useful directions. Especially since you mention the Abroad!

    Other than that, I am not sure I agree with your take on Oyester’s post. You strike me as one of those Jewocrats who uses our money to create herself status and jobs. I suggest a moto for your type: In the name of Jews with Jewish money, but without Jews. You love talking down to us, because you are so used to talking above us.

    Agreed with Oyester, appropriate name for the monstrosities erected in the Bay Area, is YMJA, or GCC. They are cultural kitch. Unwelcoming, unjewish. They are bilboards for Koret foundations and congealed administrative bravado. The goal should have been to make Jews meet Jews, and be Jewish. Was it even considered?

    The proper Jewish center is a kehila. A real community surrounds them, and they are dying for money, judging by the membership fees, and fund-drives. Soon they will be worse than public television or radio solicitations.

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