As Gary Rosenblatt noted, the recently released UJA-Federation of New York population study documents the continued diversification of the Jewish people and underscores the importance of doing more to build community (“A Community Falling Apart?” June 15).
Rosenblatt asks how UJA-Federation can respond and build community. I believe an important component of that response has to involve an increased and intensified investment in Jewish community centers by UJA-Federation, Jewish foundations, individual donors and lay leaders.
JCCs are the only institutions that purposefully bring all Jews together. I have been a consultant to many JCCs in New York and to other nonprofit agencies for more than 25 years. JCCs in the metropolitan area regularly engage, and provide vital services for, the entire spectrum of the Jewish community.
The JCC is often the only place where public, private, Jewish day, and yeshiva students can play on the same basketball team or participate in ongoing Sunday and after school programs together. While people will rarely go to a lecture at a synagogue from a different denomination, no one hesitates to go to a talk, film series, or show at a local JCC.
Unfortunately, JCCs have not been a priority on the Jewish communal agenda for many years. For example, the large and growing Brownstone Brooklyn Jewish community has no JCC services. Few, if any, grants are available for JCC initiatives. Nor does UJA-Federation have key staff or lay committees specifically focused on JCCs.
The fact that scores of thousands of highly diverse Jews already spend more time engaged with JCCs than with any other institution other than yeshivot and day schools presents a great foundation upon which to build a stronger 21st-century Jewish community.