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Jewish Center Breaks Away in Bid to Survive

Community: After parent group decides to close Granada Hills facility, its board votes to become independent.


Rather than close its doors, a Granada Hills Jewish community center has decided to break away from its parent organization and reestablish itself independently.

The financially ailing Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles, which oversees seven facilities citywide, plans to close the North Valley Jewish Community Center on June 30 and sell its property.

Determined to keep a center operating, however, a 12-member North Valley JCC committee was formed to discuss building a new center or buying the existing property and running it as an independent corporation.

On Sunday, the community center's advisory board voted unanimously to form a nonprofit organization, the North Valley Jewish Community Center Inc.

''What we're hoping to be able to do is maintain a presence in the north Valley,'' said Elaine Fox, acting president of the board.

In late November, the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles said it owed between $1 million and $2 million to its main funding source, the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles.

To deal with the financial crisis, the organization announced it would close five centers, said David Novak, the agency's spokesman. Since then, a sixth center, in the West Valley, was directed to make cuts in staff and programs.

Through grass-roots fund-raising efforts, two centers, one in the Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks area, the other in West Los Angeles, are on track to continue some programs next year.

The JCC of Greater L.A. has discussed continuing operations at the Silver Lake and West Valley centers, according to an April 5 letter it sent to the Jewish Federation.

That left the Bay Cities center in Santa Monica and the North Valley center in Granada Hills to find means to purchase their properties, Novak said.

Despite efforts to partner with local temples or other Jewish groups, the Bay Cities center will close in June, he said.

Andrea Goodstein, a member of the North Valley center's advisory board, said she doesn't hold any ill will toward the JCC of Greater L.A. for selling off the properties.

''I think that if the JCC of Los Angeles could help everybody, they would. They are just doing what makes good business sense for them--and this was their decision,'' Goodstein said.

''We respect it, [but] we're just thinking of all the people in the north Valley that want or need a place to be.''

Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson is working to find backers to contribute toward the purchase of the North Valley center at 16601 Rinaldi St., Goodstein said. So far, she said, fund-raising pledges total $63,000.

The amount needed will be determined by a real estate appraisal, which is underway, Goodstein said

The center's advisory board also instituted a new $100 annual membership fee--down from the previous yearly fee of $250.

All new and existing programs will be offered on a fee basis, she said.

This isn't the first time the center has been forced to fight for its survival, Goodstein said. Board members kept the center open in 1999 after alleged racist Buford Furrow shot three children and two adults at the center before killing postal worker Joseph Ileto, she pointed out.

''We won't let anybody shut us down,'' Goodstein said. ''We will survive. Whatever it takes, we will weather through any storm thrown our way.''

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