June 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

JEC and Union Y to Join Forces

The YM-YWHA of Union County (Union Y) and the Jewish Educational Center (the JEC) have successfully concluded negotiations regarding combining and maximizing their formerly separate services in the Elizabeth-Hillside and broader Union County communities. According to Rabbi Pinchas Shapiro, executive vice president of the JEC, “The JEC is committed to building and uniting the community. The ultimate goal in the partnership, as it has evolved and deepened, is to enable both organizations to thrive and do more to benefit everyone in their mutually vital services.”

The Jewish Link spoke with Rav Elazar Teitz, dean of the JEC, who strongly endorsed the plan. He expressed his confidence in the JEC leadership, whose collective and stated goal is “… to creatively and effectively serve the diverse needs of a growing community.”

The two organizations have worked closely together for almost a year, along with the input, assistance and guidance of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest (Federation), a longtime partner of both organizations. According to Union Y Board President Robert Heizler, the Federation has been very involved and supportive throughout this process, especially Howard Rabner, COO and CFO, as well as Jessica Mehlman.

In an interview, Rabner stated, “Both I and the Jewish Federation wanted to ensure that the unique services provided by the YM-YWHA would remain enabled to continue in a vibrant community, as those services are not provided by other agencies.”

In addition to the physical facility itself, which offers various health and fitness programs for individuals and families, there are also vital senior services and programs offered at the Union Y, as well as its respected Early Childhood Center and popular summer camp for children up to sixth grade, along with Camp Chaverim Sports Division for children through eighth grade. These programs are considered essential to the community by both organizations.

Heizler added, “Partnering with the JEC enables us to provide the community with the best of both worlds. The JEC’s institutional leadership is invaluable to its schools and member organizations. Their strong support will ensure that the crucial services provided by the ‘Y’ will continue for years to come. We are fortunate to have the support of a flourishing institution like the JEC.”

Signed in December 2020, the Asset Transfer Agreement, a “mutual services” agreement, will enable the JEC and the Union Y to maximize the potential of their expanded physical footprint, thus providing greater creativity and flexibility in educational programming and for community events. According to the proposal, the Union Y will continue to have its own director.

The Union Y sits on a large parcel of land used for the camps and other outdoor programs, with both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool and a substantial parking lot. The inside space includes a kosher kitchen and dining area, both heavily utilized by the senior programs, and provides essential services. In addition, there are fitness and recreation areas, numerous classrooms and a gymnasium that includes a stage and doubles as a community event space.

In order to proceed with the plan, a vote of approval by the Union Y membership was required.

Members were informed by mail and electronically of the member meeting to be held via Zoom on May 25, 2021. The meeting notification letter stated: “There will be no meaningful changes to the practical services and benefits provided to Y members as a result of the proposed transaction with the JEC.” With the requirement of a two-thirds majority for the transaction to pass, the plan was presented, discussed and put to vote by the membership, passing decisively in a vote of 121 to 9.

Now as due diligence and building inspection move ahead, the plans remain to be finalized by the JEC board. Rabbi Shapiro said he views the partnership “… as a way that both organizations can improve and expand their current services, including cultural offerings.” He said that both organizations will retain their names, and emphasized the importance of the Union Y to thrive and to be enabled in doing more to benefit everyone.

By Ellie Wolf

 

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