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Plan to close building is questioned

Several longtime members of the Jewish Community Center on Tuesday railed against the planned closing of the Benderson Family Building during a special meeting in the facility on North Forest Road in Getzville.

The meeting, which attracted about 200 people, was held to allow center supporters to question a decision last week by the JCC's board of directors to close the 35-year-old facility by Labor Day and also to offer alternatives that would keep the agency from incurring mounting debt.

"It's clear by the attendance here that the adoption of the JCC's new strategic plan has struck a chord in the community and, personally, I've got to tell you that I'm glad that it happened," said Andrew Shaevel, a past president of the JCC who served as moderator for the event.

"It would have been a much sadder day if we would have announced the decision that we made and nobody cared," Shaevel added.

Janet Gunner, a 27-year-member of the JCC, called on the board to rescind its motion to close and to take steps to ensure the agency's financial stability -- a task accomplished by her father as executive director of three Jewish community centers downstate.

"He has brought in millions of dollars of grants to Jewish community centers, Jewish federations and Jewish agencies over his 66-year history in the field," Gunner said.

Alan Feldman, current executive director of the JCC of Greater Buffalo, said that over several months, the agency's board has explored several options, only to have come to "a heart-wrenching, extremely emotional decision" over deliberations that took five meetings.

"Unless we cut our losses and cut them quickly, in a very short period of time, we will not be able to pay a bill anymore, our cash flow is at its limit [and] our line of credit with the bank has reached its limit," Feldman said.

However, longtime JCC member Marjorie Abelson took issue with this approach.

"Cutting off a limb doesn't necessarily save an organization. Oftentimes, it kills it," Abelson said.

She also questioned why the board waited until recently to share with the membership the agency's dire financial straits. In addition, she scolded the board for authorizing the expenditure of $1 million to renovate the locker rooms in the facility's health and fitness center.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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