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Center for Jewish History Lays Off a Third of Its Staff

Center for Jewish History Lays Off a Third of Its Staff

20 positions trimmed at leading cultural institution.

Sandee is the arts and culture editor at the Jewish Week.

The Center for Jewish History in Chelsea. wikimedia commons
The Center for Jewish History in Chelsea. wikimedia commons

The Center for Jewish History, one of the city’s leading Jewish cultural institutions, has laid off about a third of its staff in the fallout from the coronavirus crisis, The Jewish Week has learned.

Bernard J. Michael, CEO and president of the center for Jewish History, confirmed that the center had furloughed 20 people — “across the board, in all departments.”

(The layoffs apply to the staff of the center, not of the partner organizations: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, the American Sephardi Federation, Yeshiva University Museum, Leo Baeck Institute and American Jewish Historical Society.)

“We are hopeful that as the pandemic eases and the economy hopefully gets better, we will be able to bring back some if not all of them,” Michael told The Jewish Week. “We are not shutting down any area of the center, but have made cuts in every area.”

When asked about whether the center’s programming would continue, he said, “It has slowed down, as there are limits to what you can do.” Some programming has been canceled; some events are postponed to later dates.

“We intend to continue programming — what that is going to look like depends on what the world looks like,” Michael continued.  “We plan to partner with the partner organizations at the center and also do some programs ourselves, but we will have to see what that will look like.”

When asked whether he expects to see cuts at the partner organizations, he said, “Not necessarily. Some have made cuts before. Some have very small staffs. I’m not aware of any cuts now.”

About fundraising these days, Michael explained that the center’s longtime donors understand how difficult these times are and how important their donations are, but that it is harder to attract newer donors, when they can’t show them the center in person.

Asked if the center has received government funding in the first round of the Trump administration’s Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and nonprofits, Michael said: “We have applied and have been approved by our bank, who has sent our approved application off to the SBA [Small Business Administration]. We have not heard back from the SBA yet, but expect to hear shortly.”

Congress and the Trump administration are negotiating another emergency funding bill intended to resume the Paycheck Protection Program.

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