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Jewish Center weighs options to improve finances Board to meet to discuss how to cope with problem of higher costs in maintaining Getzville facility

The board of directors of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo is considering a variety of options to shore up the organization's finances, including the possibility of shutting down the center's Getzville facility.

Board members are scheduled to meet Wednesday evening to determine a strategic plan that will ensure the long-term presence of the agency in Western New York.

The rumored closing of the JCC's Benderson Family Building at 2640 N. Forest Road has led to the circulation of a petition aimed at saving the facility.

But Alan Feldman, the center's executive director, said Monday that the board has yet to make any decisions about the future of the agency and its buildings.

The center has an estimated 10,000 members and also operates the Holland Family Building at 787 Delaware Ave.

Feldman said the board has been discussing long-range plans for the agency for nearly a year. He declined to elaborate on the future of the Benderson Building, which has served as a central gathering place for the area's Jewish community since its construction in 1974.

"There are so many different choices that the board has to consider," Feldman said. "There are no sacred cows. Everything is up for consideration."

He would not go into detail about the various options. Two board members contacted Monday referred questions to Feldman.

The agency, which operates on an annual budget of about $6 million, has struggled financially for several years and particularly since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which prompted much higher property and liability insurance premiums.

"It's just been an enormous increase in the cost of doing business," Feldman said.

Those increased costs, coupled with a downturn in philanthropy and with inefficient buildings, have led to the budget difficulties.

Both campuses, said Feldman, have "very dated mechanical infrastructure."

A petition has been circulating since last week, asking that the board listen to the concerns of the JCC membership.

"Many of us could find alternatives for places to exercise, swim or for day care, nursery school or camps for our children [although without the Jewish cultural content that is important to many of us], but we would not be able to replace the robust sense of community that the JCC provides," the petition reads.

Twelve years ago, the board of directors debated whether to shut down or renovate the organization's Delaware Avenue facility.

The board could come to a decision on the future of the agency as soon as Wednesday, but the process might take longer, Feldman said.

e-mail: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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