The Passaic-Clifton Y, formally known as the YM-YWHA-Tricounty JCC of Passaic, Bergen, and Essex, will close in September 2011.
A letter sent to Y members last week by its president and executive director said financial strains forced the decision after close to seven decades in operation, first on Washington Avenue in Passaic and then at its present location on Scoles Avenue in Clifton.
“Costs have sky-rocketed and donations have come down, making for some tough times,” wrote executive director Ken Mandel and president Barry Gore. “The deficits have accumulated from year to year and now are at the point that they are not manageable, and we have exhausted all borrowing power with banks, etc.”
The letter announced that the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Clifton-Passaic, under whose umbrella the Y operates, would sell off the building housing the Y and other affiliated agencies. The building has been listed for sale “with a large real estate agency.”
“The decision of the board is to plan for a soft landing in this difficult situation by targeting Sept. 2011 as its closing date,” according to the letter.
The decision ended months of speculation about the center’s viability. While Passaic’s Orthodox community has been growing in recent years, the area’s historic population of secular Jews and those from the Modern Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform movements — a key constituency of many Jewish community centers — has been shrinking for decades.
The response on the website Passaic Clifton Jewish Community News, where the letter was first posted, has ranged from sad, to frustrated, to pleased that the inevitable has been faced.
“This building has served the community so well,” wrote Sarah Reiss, who grew up going to the Y and still lives within a couple blocks of it. “I went to the camp as a child, worked at the camp and at the building in my teens and met my husband at the Y. Then both my children attend the Y preschool, which is one of the best, and the camp. I am very sad that it has come to this.”
Leaders of the Y could not be reached for comment by press time.
Adam Wolf, who now lives in West Orange but grew up in Rutherford, said he spent “more hours than I can count” at the Y, in nursery school, as a camper and camp counselor, and as an adult, helping to organize music concerts there.
“It makes me sad, but I knew it was hanging on by a thread,” he told NJ Jewish News. He organized a Y day camp reunion last month that drew around 140 nostalgic, enthusiastic returnees.
“We went to the Y to be with other Jewish kids,” Wolf said. “These days, in the Orthodox community, they can walk out their front door and find someone to play with. They don’t have the same need for a center.”