News 7 min read

A Message from Mark Shapiro

By JCC Milwaukee April 17, 2020

April 17, 2020

JCC Families,

Can you believe it was five weeks ago that we made the hard, but necessary, decision to close the JCC’s buildings? Can you believe that, when we did, we thought that today might be the day we could potentially open our spaces back up? It requires no stretch of belief to understand why that didn’t happen (though it does require some imagination to believe there was some thought that April 17 was too long a closure when announced in mid March!).

Over this past month, we’ve been hard at work stabilizing our service to the community, reaching out and understanding the needs of our families and partners, and making quick work of transitioning the best of what we do to a virtual, digital environment. We’ve made hard decisions about our financial resources, and have continued to depend on the support of our members and users to see us through this moment in time – and prepare us for a new future that is still being built.

So, what’s next? With an uncertain timeline, where so many of the key factors are outside our immediate control, we will continue to thrive with your active support. We’re going to focus on innovating where we can, enhancing our service in new ways, and putting every possible resource into socially connecting while physically distancing. We’re learning that our families want engagement – either on a one-to-one basis, in a small (virtual) group setting, or just an opportunity to experience something new (or familiar) in a live environment. We’ll continue to grow Beyond A Building, but now with the benefit of having done so with you over this recent month of new opportunities and challenges.

There are a lot of questions – we’ve heard them, and we also have them. We’re operating on two unique tracks – working hard on serving you today while exploring all the different ways we might serve you in the future, come what may.

I thought I’d try to address the questions we have ourselves, and the ones we have heard; even if we don’t have an answer today, we’ll give you some insight into how we’re thinking and resourcing:

How can we help?

It has been awe-inspiring to watch the community rally around our first responders, essential employees and companies, and local businesses – we’re proud and eager to support those individuals and organizations that are working hard to keep our community safe. As a non-profit social service agency, the JCC depends on the support of our members, users, partners, and donors. If you have the capacity to continue supporting the JCC through your membership, enrollment, or with a tax-deductible contribution – know that this investment will be used to responsibly serve the community throughout our wellness, education, and community services. Click here to donate to JCC Staff & Service Sustainability.

Did you know that, when our buildings are open, we average about one visitor for every minute we’re open? Think about how many people in our community have made a visit to the JCC part of their lives. We’re as committed as ever to meeting the needs of those individuals – throughout our state – and grateful for every investment made towards that goal.

What about camp?

Our camp teams – in Whitefish Bay, Fredonia, and Eagle River – continue to ready our facilities and programs for an exceptional JCC summer. We continue to work with industry experts throughout the country to understand how we might open, when we might open, and what might look different about the summer of 2020. We commit to communicating as soon as decisions are made, with the unique needs of our community being the key factor in our decisions. Others might communicate at a different pace or with a different intent; we’ll stay true to who we are, who we serve, and what we can accomplish together.

Will KidShare happen this year?

Yes! We will proudly present KidShare – the JCC’s signature fundraiser – as an interactive, live online event on Thursday, May 7. Sponsorship and registration is available here. Everyone is welcome to join us for KidShare, and every dollar raised will go directly to serving our community, today and for years to come.

What about your staff?

Our staff family is the lifeblood of what we do, how we serve, and how we bring our values to life. Working with a limited staff, and knowing the impact temporary furloughs is having on the lives of our families, is the most challenging of all. We’re actively working with our partners to make more resources available for our staff, exploring all options for supporting and leading our team, and remain committed to bringing this staff family back together as soon as possible.

What about the water park?

Preparing for the opening of the Hy & Richard Smith JCC Water Park is among our favorite spring activities. Our aquatics and membership teams are diligently working on readying the Water Park for a full summer of operations and family engagement. Our ability to do so will be in line with the broader operations of the JCC, consistent with guidance from the federal government, local health officials, and both the State of Wisconsin and the City of Mequon.

What’s the plan for other summer programs?

Our program team is planning for two options – what summer might look like in a virtual-only environment, and how we can prepare for summer programming in person. With all our programs and services, there are significant costs and planning required to prepare and deliver programs – and we must be responsible with those costs (and our time) in this unique environment. It’s possible that, even with a building opening, our programs will look different. We’re learning to be more comfortable with uncertainty, and thank you for your patience as we balance the needs of right now with the dreams for tomorrow.

What about the NBA Championship?

While the NBA continues to navigate its path forward, there is little doubt that when play was suspended – the Milwaukee Bucks had the best overall record in the league. As such, should play not resume in a timely manner, it is the official opinion of the JCC that the Bucks should be named 2020 Champions of the National Basketball Association.  In short – #FearTheDeer.

This has been hard – for us as professionals, as individuals, as friends. What I do know, without a shadow of a doubt and even more today than I did five weeks ago, is that this is an incredible, resilient, and hopeful community. When we work together, talk together, and imagine together – there is no limit to what we can endure, and what we can accomplish.

Thank you for the trust and support to do this work, for your unwavering support of our mission, and for standing together (with six feet distance) as we invest every possible resource into remaining socially connected.

Shabbat Shalom,
Mark Shapiro
President & Chief Executive Officer