Nearly 12 weeks after the Jewish Federation, Foundation and JCC of Greater New Haven closed on-site operations due to the spread of COVID-19, the doors at the Beckerman Lender Jewish Community Building building are opened twice a day to allow staff in. The guidelines are strict. Employees receive and are required to sign the new health and safety guidelines; they can only enter at certain times and are announced on a schedule. Judy Alperin, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven’s CEO, oversees the schedule to assure that there are no more than a few people assigned to work in a certain area of the building at the same time. Employees are instructed to record their temperatures before leaving for work, and are tested before entering the building. Masks are required at all times.
“It’s a new reality we all need to accept—it’s the new normal,” says Alperin. “The health and safety of our community and staff are paramount as we carefully approach reopening our building and our physical operations.”
However, the Jewish Federation and the JCC have not been dormant during the past weeks. Hundreds of programs, live classes and pre-recorded videos have been offered to the community during the stay-at-home orders.
“We will continue to offer these online programs for as long as it serves a need for our community,” says Alperin. “But there is nothing we want more than seeing our JCC members and the Greater New Haven community back in the building.”
Shannon Lane, a JCC board member and a mother of young children who participate in the JCC Camp, the Beverly Levy Early Learning program and the JCC afterschool program, is cautiously optimistic.
“Before the pandemic, the JCC was the center of our family life. I would bring my daughter to Bev-Lev and usually stay and telecommute from Café 360 or in the Cube [JCC member-only quiet office space]. On many days, I would take a break to work out, and then pick up the kids from their enrichment activities, afterschool or JCC swim team. We truly miss our friends in the community, and the JCC teachers and staff. I understand things are going to look and feel different when we return, but I know first-hand that the JCC is taking every precaution to keep those who enter healthy and safe.”
When state guidelines for phased reopening started to become available in May, Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven President Dr. Jeffrey Hoos and JCC President Jeffrey Sklarz initiated a special taskforce to guide the new protocols and procedures that would need to be in place for a safe and phased reopening. The task force is comprised of subcommittees; each task force subcommittee has carefully analyzed the different operational areas of the Jewish Federation and the JCC.
“Proudly, our community has some of the best minds in their fields. That, coupled with the fact that they are so dedicated and willing to help, made this task force a true power house,” said Dr. Hoos. The task force, which includes over 20 staff members and volunteers, has spent hundreds of hours writing the guidelines and protocols for all key areas. They implemented state DECD, CDC, OSHA and Office of Early Childhood guidelines, as well as best practices from the American Camping Association, Jewish Federations of North America, JCC Association and sister communities.
The first area to open for public use will be the JCC Day Camps. “Our beautiful wooded campus offers the perfect setting to provide our kids with a happy summer,” says JCC of Greater New Haven Executive Director Scott Cohen. Camp will open on June 22. Campers will stay with their group of 10 during their camp day. Even though we cannot offer busing or field trips, camp will offer plenty of recreation, fun and fresh air with swimming in the completely resurfaced swimming pool.
The opening of the JCC day camps will be followed closely with phased re-openings of the Marcia & Stanley F. Reiter Swimming Pool and the Fitness Center.
“We continue to use our mantra [from the days of overcoming the fire in Dec. 2016] of making lemonade from lemons; we will once again overcome any obstacles before us to bounce back stronger than ever,” concludes Alperin.
Reopening Updates from Our Committees
General Operations, Facilities and Security Evan Wyner, Chair
We support the operational aspects of all programs and activities, especially as it pertains to cleaning and sanitation protocols, safe distancing, building access, and flow inside the building. In the initial phases, only JCC members will be permitted in the building by appointment (visitors and guests will be allowed later); they will be logged after their temperature has been checked. A new smartphone app is in development to allow members to more easily reserve a spot for their favorite activity.
JCC Day Camps Emily Banach, Chair
We are very excited that the JCC Day Camps will be open on June 22. Much consideration went into structuring camp for a safe and enjoyable experience for our campers. Camp will be available in two 4-week sessions (June 22-July 17 and July 20-August 14). There will be no field trips, transportation or before/after care. To minimize exposure, bunks will be limited to 10 participants, and will be kept separated from the other campers throughout the day and throughout the session. Counselors will be required to wear masks.
Beverly Levy Early Learning Center Shannon Lane, Chair
While considering the ongoing and fluid pandemic unknowns, the Beverly Levy ELC task force made the very difficult and painful decision that, for the safety of our children and teachers, we will remain closed for the summer. Since safety is and always has been our number one priority, we will be spending the summer making necessary changes to the classrooms and implementing protocols that include staff training that will ensure the children’s and teachers' safety when we do reopen in September.
Health and Wellness Bob Felice, Chair
Understanding that health and wellness are some of the main attractions for our JCC membership, we have been working on creative ways to allow safe return to on-site operation. We plan to allow JCC members in the fitness center by reservation. This will allow us to maintain safe distancing, and enable deep cleaning and sanitation between sessions. We aim to begin in-person cycling classes, and personal training shortly thereafter. We will keep many of our classes virtual and are looking into maintaining the virtual option even for in-person classes. We are also going to use our beautiful campus for more outdoor, safely spaced classes.
Sports and Recreation Scott Hurwitz, Chair
We are looking forward to opening the Marcia & Stanley F. Reiter swimming pool for members by reservation on or about June 29. While activities in the gymnasium are not planned for the initial phases, we do plan to offer programs, games and fun for children and adults outdoors throughout the summer. We are also planning to offer swim lessons that can come directly to your pool.
Medical Dr. Stephanie Green, Chair
We are working closely with the human resources department to develop the employee health protection policy and the mask policy for staff and members. We are also providing essential medical advice for all departments and subcommittees to ensure the highest standard of health and hygiene practices.
Legal Jeffrey Sklarz, Esq, Chair
Careful consideration is given toward all new policies and protocols that will be implemented affecting members and staff. This includes preparation of necessary waivers and documentation to create a safe environment.