For questions about membership and programs, click here.
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Please do not send general questions to this address.
As the Week Ends: July 3
July 3, 2020
Behind each magical JCC moment are unique and amazing people who make it all happen: our program team, marketers, fundraisers, audiovisual and technology staff, and so many others. Due to the financial impact of COVID-19, we’ve had to lay off or furlough 35% of our staff. It has been by far the hardest time in our institution's history. Each of these staff members has been a valuable asset to the JCC; each will be sorely missed.
We know these colleagues well. We have deep respect for their work; we know each other's families; we partner on important projects; and we dream together about all the ways we can make this community stronger. Just as we will feel their absence, we know that you will as well, either because the phone may ring an extra time before we answer or because there’s a program at the JCC that you love that may not run in the months ahead. I know that many of you have built relationships with people on our team, and I know you will miss them. We are all grateful to the departing staff for their incredible service to this community.
Which brings me to tomorrow, and the next day, and the days after that. The JCC you’ll see moving forward will be one marked by grit and ingenuity. We have always aimed to do work that is timely and relevant, to create joyful moments in Jewish life, and add meaning and value for so many people in our community. We will continue this work, even as we know it will look different. As we prepare to reopen the building as soon as it is safe to do so, your opinion is valuable to us. Please use this form to share your thoughts. How can we continue to play a role in your life?
Without your continued financial support, we would not be able to do the exceptional things we’re doing now. Our Emergency Fund was set up to keep bringing you virtual programs, to support our staff, and to enable us to safely reopen the building. I am committed to doing those things, now more than ever. Whether those programs bring seniors together in a game of bridge, encourage members of our Adaptations community to learn social skills, empower those looking to stay in shape while stuck indoors, or provide a fulfilling summer for kids deprived of camp, we’re determined to keep them coming.
As we head into Shabbat, please know that I remain fiercely dedicated to strengthening our community. The JCC has proven that it is so much more than a building. You’ve told us, through your stories of friendships made, lessons learned, and moments celebrated, that the JCC has always mattered and that it still does. Times are uncertain, but community is not.
Please stay well. I can’t wait to see you soon.
Rabbi Joy Levitt
June 18, 2020
Tomorrow night, as I sit down to Shabbat dinner for the first time in many months with some of our children, our discussion will not begin with the usual banter or even with predictions about when the city might reopen. Tomorrow night's dinner will begin with the recitation of the Emancipation Proclamation, which I must admit I have not read since high school. We will do this because it is a tradition on Juneteenth, a holiday that marks the day that Union Soldiers declared that the civil war was over and that the enslaved were free. The reading will be followed, I am sure, with a discussion in which our grown children interrogate us on how we have used our pulpits and privilege to advance the cause of racial justice. And while our answers will not satisfy them—and shouldn't satisfy us either—the conversation itself will mark an important moment, when we communicate again to our children (because the story must be told and retold) that our justice commitments and our Judaism are inextricably linked by a tradition that demands that we fight for those who are not yet free—because once we were not free and because we are expected to understand that every person is created in God's image.
Whether you celebrate Shabbat or not, whether it is your tradition to celebrate Juneteenth or not, I urge you to take time tomorrow with your friends, your families, or in your own quiet reflection, to deepen your understanding of this day, which Governor Cuomo has just declared a state holiday, and to commit to acts of justice.
Tomorrow night at Shabbat dinner, we will make Kiddush and bless our children, mindful that we have never worried that the color of their skin puts them at risk from the very people sworn to protect them, and with a deeper appreciation now of the anxiety that accompanies Black and Brown parents every day. We will make motzi over the challah and we will have our Shabbat meal. And before we conclude, we will recite the Kaddish for Black Lives.
For Rayshard Brooks. For George Floyd. For Breonna Taylor. For Ahmaud Arbery. And for so many more.
Rabbi Joy Levitt
We Look Forward to Seeing You,
with Executive Director Rabbi Joy Levitt
June 9, 2020
June 3, 2020
We are grieving and we are stunned by the horrific, public murder of George Floyd and by the injustice, violence, and uncertainty that has gripped our city and our country. We mourn the tragic deaths of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, David McAtee, and countless others. May they rest in peace. And may we not.
May we not rest in the illusion that this happened somewhere else. May we not get comfortable with the false belief that this murder is unusual. May we not become numb to the pain of mothers who cry for their sons, sisters for their brothers, children for their parents. Those who have enjoyed the privilege of white skin carry responsibility for the racism that is tearing apart our nation. Through negligence and silence, we have become accessories to the injustices committed against people of color in our nation.
When I was ten years old, I saw my mother cry for the first time. When I asked her what was wrong, she told me that these were tears of joy—over the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which contained provisions barring discrimination and segregation in education, public facilities, jobs, and housing. I remember asking my mother if this meant the end to discrimination. She struggled to find language that would be comprehensible to a child about how this very important law did not, in fact, mean the end of discrimination, though perhaps it signaled a beginning.
Activism dominated my high school and college years, with demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, for civil rights and women's rights, the beginning of LGTBQ activism, and the fight to end the oppression of Soviet Jews. Our generation thought we were pretty powerful. We thought we ended segregation; the war ended; we believed women were liberated; and that we had at least begun to secure the rights of Lesbian and Gay people. Soviet Jews were allowed to leave. We were proud of the work and went on with our lives. Now it seems so shortsighted.
Because here we are. With the modern-day lynching of Black and Brown people by police, and the systemic racism so pervasive in so many aspects of our lives, not just in law enforcement, my mother's words are prescient. I don't mean to suggest that nothing was accomplished back then; only to say that it is abundantly clear that laws, while necessary, are not sufficient to move a society out of its refusal to accept responsibility for the stain of slavery, the lynchings that followed, the segregation that divided us further, and the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people that is our modern-day slavery.
And now here we are. The murder of George Floyd did not happen in a vacuum. It is on all of us to understand how we got to this terrible point in our country and work in partnership with communities of color to stop it. This is a moment when the Jewish values we hold dear must be lifted up by each of us. This is a time to donate to organizations fighting racism, to vote for those who commit to work for all who live in our country, regardless of the color of their skin. This is a time to join with others in the Jewish community and beyond who are working tirelessly to speak out against the taking of Black lives. This is a moment to learn, to care, to scream from the rooftops: Black Lives Matter. This is a time to scream from the rooftops: Not in my city. Not in my country. Not on my watch. This is not a time to expect others to do the work. I know that. This is on me and on many of you; I hope you will join me.
Rabbi Joy Levitt
We Miss You
May 7, 2020
Why Gratitude Matters Right Now
May 1, 2020
I miss you. Every one of you. Those of you who swim and those of you who study. Those of you whose children giggle on the roof and those of you who play bridge. I miss the talk in the elevators and my training sessions in our fitness center. I even miss my trainer, which is saying a lot for this reluctant exerciser!
But it fills my heart to see the ways in which you are showing up. You're asking how you can help. You're emailing us to let us know what you need. You're reaching out to each other. You're supporting our Emergency Fund. Thousands of you have been coming to classes and concerts and our Lunch and Learn sessions. You read names of Holocaust victims with us overnight and celebrated Israel's birthday with music, cooking, and conversation. I am blown away by all of it, and beyond grateful.
As the weather warms and you begin to walk the streets of the UWS, you'll begin to see changes in the windows of our building. We want to share your messages of hope and gratitude for all to see. I think we can all use beauty and hope in the moments ahead. What are you grateful for right now? We want to know. Let us know by filling out this form and we'll display your words in the windows. Feel free to sign your name or make your words anonymous—either way, it's gratitude that will help us get through these challenging times.
We're continuing to think about the weeks to come, mindful that your health and safety are our first priority. As we await the day we can reopen, we're thinking about every aspect of our building and every possible way we can adapt so we can be together safely. Mostly, we're thinking about chesed—that hard-to-translate Hebrew word that describes a way of being in the world that exudes lovingkindness. It's a JCC filled with chesed to which we aspire, one in which you feel cared for and safe, in which the warmth of tradition can easily reach you, even from six feet away.
Stay well. Stay with us. We give you community and you give us life.
Rabbi Joy Levitt
P.S. To read responses to Rabbi Levitt's request, click here.
The JCC Coronavirus Emergency Fund
April 7, 2020
Our thoughts are with all of you now as you care for yourselves and your families during these very difficult days. Here at the JCC, we have had to make hard decisions in order to safeguard our community as we navigate this unprecedented time. We had hoped to reopen on April 20, but it is now apparent that this will not be the case. We will be in touch as soon as we know that it is safe to reopen. We are as eager to welcome you back as you are to return.
The closure has meant drastic reductions in revenue, specifically in program and membership fees, and has required major staff and programming adjustments. About 400 of our beloved staff have been furloughed, and everyone else has taken pay cuts. We remain committed to serving our community, especially those who are most vulnerable, including isolated older adults and people with special needs. This is why we have created the JCC Coronavirus Emergency Fund.
The goal of the fund is to quickly secure donations that will help us get through this crisis. Funds will be used to support staff, allow us to stay connected to you through online programming, and sustain us so that we may open our doors again. This has been the hardest moment in the JCC's history, and we need your support now more than ever. Please give what you can. Every dollar counts, and thanks to the generosity of some of our donors, every gift you make to the Emergency Fund will be matched dollar for dollar, so your gift will have double the impact. Please click here to make your matching gift.
As many of us prepare for Passover and Easter this week, we hold on to the values that unite us. Spring will come, and with it, the promise of growth and opportunity. We are a resilient community, and together we will get through this. It won't be easy and it won't be quick, but as I watch the generosity displayed by every health worker, every police officer and firefighter, every person sewing masks, buying groceries for neighbors, or calling isolated seniors, it's abundantly clear: Love is bigger than a virus.
Please take care of yourself and let us know if we can be of service to you or a loved one.
With fierce determination and heartfelt wishes for health and strength,
Rabbi Joy Levitt
Coronavirus Update: JCC closed through April 19
March 23, 2020
I hope this email finds you and your loved ones well. Though we cannot physically be with you, please know we see you. We see your anxiety and isolation, and we see your creativity and generosity being expressed throughout our great city. We are doing our utmost to respond to you, and we will continue to do so as our extraordinary staff builds our virtual JCC every day.
I am writing to let you know that our building will be closed through Sunday, April 19 as we continue to monitor the state of our city, our schools, and the health of our community. We will update you on our plans accordingly.
We realize some of you have questions about your membership and program enrollment, and we appreciate your patience as we've prioritized the JCC's many pressing needs. You will be hearing from us separately very soon. Our strength comes from your incredible support and participation, whether through membership dues or class fees. This period of closure is financially challenging, and our staff is working around the clock to support your needs.
Programs that have begun to meet online—including JCC Nursery School, specific young children/pre-nursery programs, Ulpan classes, and several of our ongoing programs—will continue to meet as they have this past week.
Please look for the "Daily Roundup" email each weekday, which can help structure your day with activities and opportunities to stay engaged in the world through wellness, art, film, Jewish learning, and more. Also keep an eye on our Virtual JCC page for upcoming and ongoing opportunities. We're grateful to those of you who have let us know how much this means to you and to your families.
Making sure our community stays strong and supported is of utmost importance to us at this time. Please let us know if you need a caring connection or are able to offer help by filling out this form. We have a cohort of staff and volunteer leaders who are eager to be in touch with you in the days and weeks ahead.
- In one week we connected with over 1,000 people—young, old, and everyone in between
- Each day our nursery school teachers "meet" their students in virtual classrooms to continue to play and connect in new ways
- 160 Ulpan (Hebrew language learning) students meet up in structured classes online
- Each one of our communities of young adults with special needs met up throughout the week in chatrooms to stay connected and provide each other the support that they so need at this moment in time
- We have been offering ongoing health and wellness classes, including daily meditation five mornings a week at 7:30 am and four afternoons a week at 5:45 pm
- We ended the week with a wonderful pre-Shabbat concert by acclaimed klezmer clarinetist Michael Winograd
Over the past two weeks, we are aware of six people on our staff, board, and in our JCC community that have tested positive for COVID-19. We are pleased to report in each case, those people are doing well and recovering quickly. In each situation, we have been in direct touch with the communities or people who have been in direct contact with the individual who tested positive to make them aware of the particulars of their own potential exposure.
Difficult times require tremendous efforts. As we continue to move our community to a virtual platform, we need your support. Please consider making a donation to ensure that we can continue to serve our JCC family during the days ahead.
Stay home and stay healthy.
Rabbi Joy Levitt
Coronavirus Update: JCC closed through Mar 27
March 12, 2020
We are writing to let you know that we have made the difficult decision to close the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan and JCC Harlem through March 27. We want to be clear: We are not aware of ANY new reports of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan (and there were no reports at JCC Harlem). We are taking this step because we are listening to health experts who say the best way to keep everyone safe is to practice social distancing. We want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Because so much of our work at our buildings is about bringing people together, this feels like the right time to think out of the box (quite literally) and serve our community beyond our buildings. We are so proud of the community we have built—our thousands of older adults who are here every week, our hundreds of adults with special needs, our cancer care and Parkinson’s participants, along with thousands of infants and young children and everybody in between—and we are committed to keeping everyone who walks through our doors safe and healthy.
Sometimes the right thing to do is also the hard thing to do. We know that now more than ever, many in our community will feel more isolated as a result of our decision. We are committed to our core values and we know we are MORE THAN JUST BUILDINGS. As we write this letter, our staff is mobilizing to create opportunities real and virtual for us to stay connected. We are thinking about a volunteer corps to support our seniors, zoom meditation and stress reduction classes, Jewish learning online, cooking demos, free streaming of our films, group fitness classes on our Youtube channel, and much more.
To our JCC Members and enrolled program participants: please know that we take seriously the investment you make in your and your family’s JCC participation. We will communicate directly with you as soon as we are able regarding your membership or missed programs. As our staff is occupied prioritizing health and safety and reorganizing certain operations, your patience is appreciated.
There is so much we don’t know and yet what we know is also powerful. We know that we are responsible for one another. We know that at times like this, generosity expands our sense of well-being. We know that when we are kinder and more caring, we not only help others but feel better ourselves as well.
In the past week, we have seen an outpouring of support for our JCC and, frankly, for us personally. Whatever other communities of which you are a part, we urge you to let them know you are grateful for their work. You should never underestimate how much your words matter. And when you have a criticism because we don’t always get it right, please be mindful that here, your words matter as well. Don’t hesitate to help us do better; we rely on your feedback.
Most of our staff will be working remotely during this time. We want to give a huge shout out to them. They are the most dedicated folks we have ever seen and are balancing their own health concerns, travel issues, and family challenges along with the rest of us. We are all stronger for their commitment and dedication.
At the end of the day, the board of directors and the staff made this call together. We did so with tremendous thoughtfulness and care for the community and staff. It is in just these moments when we understand how important the community/professional relationship really is, and ours is quite extraordinary. We want to publicly thank the members of our board (click here for their names) for their constant support as we navigate these choppy seas.
We hope to have better news in the weeks to come. We are a resilient community and we know we will get through this—together. In the meantime, please do everything you can to stay healthy and ensure the health of those around you.
Rabbi Joy Levitt
Sheryl J. Kaye
Chair, Board of Directors
Coronavirus Update: JCC Closed Mar 11 + 12
March 10, 2020
We are writing to let you know that we learned today that a child who was in a program at the JCC on Saturday night has since tested positive for COVID-19 along with her mother. Both mother and child are currently asymptomatic and doing well, and we appreciate their quick and honest communication with us. All parents with children in that program have been directly notified of the specific situation.
Out of an abundance of caution, the Board of Directors of the JCC has made the decision to close the JCC tomorrow (Wednesday, Mar 11) and Thursday, Mar 12 in order to do a thorough and deep hospital-grade sanitizing of our building. It is our expectation that we will reopen on Friday; should that change, you will hear from us.
While the Department of Health has not asked us to close any part of the JCC, we believe this is the right decision as we navigate these uncharted waters. Our concern for your health and safety is always uppermost in our minds.
The JCC is more than a building. It is the heart of our community and we are here for you even when we aren’t physically open. You will be hearing from us with suggestions about how to stay engaged and connected with the many resources we have available. Our staff will be working diligently to help you find good films, podcasts, articles, and lectures worth taking a look at, and making suggestions about how to stay healthy and connected.
Please email us if you have any questions. We will stay in touch as more information becomes available. We are deeply grateful to those of you who have called or emailed with your support for our work during these challenging times. Now it’s time to call the people you love, hold the people you can, and remember that together we will get through this. We remain committed to the community we are building—one filled with chesed/lovingkindness and connections to one another.
Rabbi Joy Levitt
Frequently Asked Questions
March 10, 2020
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions. If you don't see the answer to your question here, send us an email and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.
What steps is the JCC taking to ensure the building is clean?
- We are consulting with health agencies, including the New York City and NY State Department of Health, as well as the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who provide guidance about actions to help prevent the spread of any respiratory disease.
- We have stepped up our hygiene and cleaning practices, including the frequent cleaning of commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs, handrails, and table tops, as well as locker rooms and fitness equipment, with a combination of alcohol-based and hospital-grade cleansers.
- You will see more hand sanitizer stations around the JCC as well. We have introduced additional disinfectants throughout the day as an extra precaution. In addition, the JCC is piloting a new daily cleaning protocol using a special sanitizing machine that will be used on every floor of the building.
When should I stay home?
- The CDC and NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene recommend that you stay home if you have a fever and/or flu-like symptoms and see your healthcare provider if appropriate.
- The CDC recommends that older adults and those who have chronic illness or are otherwise immunocompromised should stay home as much as possible, avoid those who appear ill, and avoid large gatherings.
- The Department of Health & Mental Hygiene is asking New Yorkers who return from the following countries to self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution: China, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan. Please note, other countries may be added to this list and it may be updated based on current news.
- To return to the JCC, you must be fever-free or symptom-free for 24 hours unmedicated.
What steps should I take to avoid becoming ill?
- Wash your hands frequently and vigorously for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, especially after touching public surfaces. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Avoid handshakes, hugs, and high fives.
- Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, sleeve, or your elbow.
- Immediately dispose of used tissues and wash or sanitize your hands.
Are programs being cancelled?
- While a limited number of programs have been canceled, as of Mar 9, there is no plan to widely cancel JCC programs. As we move forward, on a case by case basis, some may need to be cancelled, postponed, or rescheduled.
JCC Coronavirus Update
March 6, 2020
I'm sure you've each received many Coronavirus-related emails and news updates, but as the week comes to a close, I wanted to reach out to let you know the latest on the steps we are taking.
First, please know that you—our community—are on my mind and in my heart. We are "in this" with you and working closely with our staff and lay leadership to (1) pay attention to the ever-changing situation and (2) adapt our programming and cleaning practices in ways that minimize the transmission of germs in our building. We also continue to be in close communication with the New York City and New York State Departments of Health, and appreciate their support and clarity as questions come up.
A few specific notes:
- This Saturday's (Mar 7) R&R Shabbat program is cancelled. It will give us an opportunity to do a thorough cleaning of our building from L3 to the 8th floor.
- The fitness center, gymnasium, and pool will remain open, and other weekend programs will continue to operate as scheduled.
- As you may have heard, out of an abundance of caution, many neighborhood Purim carnivals (including the one scheduled for this Sunday at JCC Harlem) have been cancelled. That doesn't mean you can't use the time at home to celebrate. Whip up some delicious hamentaschen (s'mores-flavored!), check out this fun Purim piece in the Daily News, or invite your neighbors along and start up a wild and crazy costume parade in your hallway. It's the UWS...why not?
And here are some helpful resources for you:
As we face this outbreak, individuals and communities need to strike a balance between vigilance and the need to go on living our lives. This is hard to do, but important. Please take a deep breath, make a phone call to someone who might be more isolated, and let them know that they are not alone. Understand that everyone expresses anxiety in different ways—so be patient and kinder than necessary.
As the situation changes and there is more to say, we will continue to be in communication with you.
Rabbi Joy Levitt
Coronavirus Prevention at the JCC
March 2, 2020
As public attention worldwide focuses on the novel coronavirus outbreak, and with the news of the first confirmed case in New York City, we know that this may be causing some unease, and want to let you know about our response at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan.
We consult with health agencies, including the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, as well as the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who provide guidance about actions to help prevent the spread of any respiratory disease. We also reference policies and practices of organizations such as the New York City Department of Education, and we reflect on our own past experiences with other diseases, including flu outbreaks such as novel influenza H1N1.
At the JCC, we are stepping up our hygiene practices, including the frequent cleaning of commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs, handrails, and table tops, as well as locker rooms and fitness equipment, with a combination of alcohol-based and hospital-grade cleansers. You will see more hand sanitizer stations around the JCC as well. We are introducing additional disinfectants throughout the day as an extra precaution.
This is a good occasion to review what each of us can do to help our community remain healthy at all times. We are all in this together.
- Keep others healthy – We are in the business of welcoming people into our space, so it feels strange to say “stay home.” But if you or your child have a fever and/or flulike symptoms, please do remain at home and see your healthcare provider if appropriate. We are asking the same of our staff. It is good practice to cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, using a tissue or sleeve, and throwing tissues in a bin immediately after use.
- Keep yourself healthy – Wash your hands frequently and vigorously for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, especially after touching public surfaces. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Keep working out – Please remember to wipe down equipment in the fitness areas before and after using. Disinfectant wipes are available on the fitness floor and in all studios.
In addition to prevention, I also want to emphasize the value of chesed, or kindness. During stressful times, people may incorrectly direct their fear toward others. I want to remind us all to counter stigma by learning and sharing facts. Viruses do not target specific racial or ethnic groups. We stand together at the JCC with all of our New York communities.
Thanks for joining us and doing your part to help keep the JCC a healthy and safe environment. We welcome you to upcoming weekend activities—our fitness center, aquatics center, gymnasium, and community spaces are open and thriving. We will continue to carefully monitor and plan for changing conditions, and will share updates with you as soon as they become available.
Rabbi Joy Levitt
7th Floor Construction is underway
Dec 20, 2019
The process of renovating the 7th floor has begun. We anticipate this project being complete just after Passover 2020.
We've heard from many of you about how the environment impacts your experience at the JCC, and hope that the addition of items such as smart boards, new chairs, and improved lighting and sound will positively affect how you learn, connect, and enjoy being part of this community. That matters to us, and we're pleased to be spending January through April preparing for the decades ahead.
What can you expect during construction?
It's our goal to minimize the inconvenience and ensure you continue to get the most out of your programs. One elevator will be dedicated to transporting project materials in the mornings from 6-8:30 am. Elevator doors will not open on the 7th Floor during construction/renovation work.
What can you expect after construction?
Smart boards, new chairs, new lighting and sound equipment, as well as a Beit Midrash and Library flexible enough to become one large space, or two or three smaller ones, with the addition of soundproof, movable walls. The Makom meditation space will enjoy improved sound mitigation and storage.
Questions or comments?
Click here to leave your question or comment in a form, and we'll respond to you as soon as we can.
We know that construction of any kind can be an inconvenience, but we look forward to welcoming you back into these spaces after Passover. I hope you'll agree that the renovations make a difference in your experience, and that your future here is worth investing in.