MARBLEHEAD – Two of the largest Jewish nonprofits north of Boston that have had to close their buildings to the public during the COVID-19 health crisis are hoping that government loan programs will help them sustain their operations.
The Jewish Community Center of the North Shore and Epstein Hillel School, located on Community Road in Marblehead, have been closed since early March. Each has applied for government loans as they await guidance from the state on when they can reopen their doors. The JCC, which has an annual budget of $6.3 million and has more than 2,000 member units, has had to furlough at least 60 employees, said Marty Schneer, the organization’s executive director.
“We have people furloughed at every level of the business,” said Schneer, who added that the building is officially closed until at least May 4.
Meanwhile, the JCC is offering fitness, health, adult education and early childhood classes online. According to Schneer, many members have continued to support the JCC by continuing to pay their dues. “I would say the response from our membership has been beyond our initial expectations,” said Schneer.
The JCC is also keeping its members connected by offering its film festival online next month, and is hoping to open its camp this summer. “If we see around June 1 that we can be open then we will shift into higher gear, bring people in for more hours, do more promotion and gear up and run camp,” said Schneer.
At Epstein Hillel, located across from the JCC, the building closed on March 12. The K-8 school, employs 32 and has an annual budget of about $2 million, said Mark Faber, the president of the school’s Board of Directors.
According to Farber, the school’s application for the government’s Payroll Protection Plan – which allows businesses and nonprofits to continue to pay their employees during the COVID-19 health crisis – has been approved. The school has also applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the government. The PPP approval, “enables the school to secure our current staffing levels with very limited change,” said Farber.
Epstein Hillel educators have conducted online video classes since mid-March. “It is a hybrid of synchronous and asynchronous learning which keeps the students engaged, encourages their creativity, and challenges their critical thinking skills,” said Farber.
The online learning plan was developed in a short period of time last month. “The administration guided faculty in implementing best practices for remote learning, working diligently to support students and families during this transition,” said Farber. “The school solicited feedback from families to help assure the program’s success under challenging circumstances. Teachers are focused on maintaining relationships with students and ensuring that they feel supported, nurtured, and connected. EHS’ curriculum is continuing online through synchronous and asynchronous lessons and projects. Teachers have succeeded in maintaining engagement, curiosity, and connectedness through live classes and projects.”