Future Shaky for Bronx Jewish Center
The 86-year-old Van Cortlandt Jewish Center faces an uncertain future at its Sedgwick Avenue location in the Bronx after the Department of Education stopped renting space at the center ending a major source of funding, reported The Riverdale Press‘ Adam Wisnieski.
Efforts to find new tenants has proven difficult for the synagogue that was founded in 1927 in an apartment room and settled at 3880 Sedgwick Ave. in 1965. Daily prayer services, cultural events, as well as meetings by other organizations, have taken place at the community center, said its president, Robert Gillman. The location also houses the JASA Van Cortland Senior Center.
The center’s financial woes began after the Department of Education terminated its lease in August. For years, the DOE rented two of VCJC’s four floors and, most recently, used the space for special education programs during the 2011-2012 school year.
The special education students were moved to MS 237 on Jerome Avenue, according to Department of Education spokesman David Pena, who said the DOE no longer needed the VCJC space because it had space available at a nearby school.
According to VCJC, the loss of the DOE as a tenant amounts to more than $100,000 per year.
“We have to have income coming in, otherwise we can’t pay our bills. Because of fuel, electricity, it’s killing us,” said Mr. Gillman.
The center also relies on fundraising, membership dues and collections at services but according to Gillman, a decline in membership – from over 700 people four or five decades ago to around 100 today – has “contributed” to the financial situation.
Longtime member Renee Stoller attributed the financial difficulties to changing times: “It took a lot to keep it up and keep it going, but unfortunately times change, cultures changes, areas change and there’s not much to do about that,” she said.
Still, Mr. Gillman said VCJC was not going to vanish.
“Were not just going to close up and go away,” he said, adding that the center would find a new home if it came to that.