Your Virtual J Program Updates

May 8, 2020

Dear J Family,

As you know, our staff have been hard at work preparing to reopen our fitness center and our programs, and were eagerly anticipating the guidelines to be issued by our County Executive today. Unfortunately, we were not given the ok to open:

“Due to the very high risk of transmission of COVID-19 related to certain types of congregation common to such facilities, the following businesses and venues are prohibited from operating or re-opening… conference and sporting venues (regardless of square footage); gyms and fitness centers; indoor and outdoor pools except those located at an individual’s residence; sporting events; sports courts; and playgrounds.”

Although we are disappointed that the J is not among businesses allowed to open at this time, clearly we understand and appreciate the reasoning behind the guidelines and will comply with them.

We will continue to prepare our facilities, programs and procedures for reopening, and invite you to continue to engage with us in hundreds of ways online, at your Virtual J.

Until we are able to see each other again, please stay safe and well, and let us know if you are in need of assistance or have suggestions for other ways we can serve you during this time.

Sincerely,
Lynn


April 17, 2020

Dear J Family,

I hope this note finds you and yours in good health.

I am both amazed and thrilled by how many of you are engaging with the J during this time. Of course, it’s not the same as spending time together in person, but I think it’s terrific that our staff and all of you have been able to adapt to the current environment. If you haven’t yet, please visit our Virtual J page and choose from a long list of ways we can connect online.

I am also thrilled to report that we have been approved for an SBA loan which has allowed us to bring back our full-time (and many part-time) staff. They will be working on ways to deliver even more of the experiences you have been connecting with. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that we are excited to be working together once again to create content for our community, who we miss so much.

We cannot say thank you enough to those of you who have been able to help support us financially during this challenging time, whether through the donation of your dues or registration fees or with other gifts. Although we are beyond grateful for the opportunity to bring our staff back, we are still working without revenue, so the J needs your support more than ever.

On behalf of all of us, we hope to see you again, very soon!

With Gratitude,

Lynn Wittels
President & CEO


April 3, 2020

Dear J Family,

This may be the most difficult message I have ever had to send.

Through times of joy and sorrow, inspiration and anxiety, the St. Louis Jewish Community Center has proudly served and united our community. In the days immediately following our closing due to the public health emergency, I marveled at how our incredibly creative and dedicated staff has rallied to create a Virtual J, filled with online classes and experiences so that we can continue to bring people together for fitness, learning and connection. The way they adapted – and your response to that – has been amazing. That’s what makes this news so very hard to share.

As we told you previously, our board unanimously approved the decision to keep every full and part-time staff member whole through the initial (and only, we hoped) period we would be closed. But the unprecedented challenge of this pandemic and our extended closure has had an insurmountable financial impact, to the point that we are now forced to temporarily place the majority of our staff on furlough, effective this weekend. The few remaining staff members will work at reduced hours and/or salaries. Today, my heart is broken for our colleagues, our family.

After intensive discussions, the J’s leadership team and Board of Directors came to the difficult conclusion that we must take this step if we intend to preserve our ability to reopen and bring back staff as quickly as possible once the public health climate allows us to do so.

It has been profoundly heartwarming to hear from hundreds of you who are graciously and generously donating your membership dues or tuition. This is making (and will continue to make) a meaningful difference in our ability to preserve the health coverage of all staff members, cover the unemployment for furloughed staff, compensate our remaining staff, and sustain our mission for all in the community who depend on the J.

We very much welcome your emergency donations and ongoing membership, and we are prioritizing continued support of our staff and our mission.

We look forward to the occasion when we can resume serving you in full and in person. In the meantime:

  • We will continue to create and post new programming and resources at our Virtual J.
  • We are still working to respond to emails and make the appropriate account changes, and we appreciate your patience.
  • There is a small group of staff who have agreed to stay on, at significantly reduced compensation, to make sure we are prepared to reopen when we can. And I am grateful to our staff members who are bearing the brunt of this so we are able to reopen at all.

I know we are not alone in this crisis—and that many of you are facing uncertainty as well. Please reach out to me personally if you or a member of our community is in need. Equally difficult to knowing the position in which this places our staff is knowing that the J’s operations are a vital service to everyone in our community who seeks connection and meaning, and to not be at our peak performance right now—when more of you need us than ever before—is very painful.

All of us who work at the J are honored to be able to serve you, and we look forward to opening our doors once more.
Wishing you good health and all of us a speedy recovery,

Sincerely,

Lynn Wittels
President & CEO


March 27, 2020

Dear J Family,

On behalf of our entire staff, I hope this finds you well and able to manage the challenges that have come with navigating our new “normal.”

The J, with nearly all staff working remotely, has continued its service to our community and is connecting daily with members and participants through fitness, arts, sports and other experiences. We have transitioned our group exercise classes online, our trainers are posting workouts that are appropriate for home, our early childhood classes are singing together on Facebook Live, Camp Sabra has connected its community across several channels, and even our Meals on Wheels service has continued to deliver to our community’s homebound elderly. Over the past week, we have engaged with our members online more than 2,000 times! We hope you’ll choose a way to connect with us HERE.

As a non-profit organization, we feel very fortunate to be able to provide the type of services that can continue even while the doors of our buildings are closed. And, we feel especially fortunate to have the support of so many of our members and participants at this time. Hundreds of you have let us know that you would like to continue paying dues to support your J.

This is why I am writing to you today. In coordination with our Board of Directors, we have put these options in place as you consider your membership dues going forward. We are happy to offer a complimentary freeze of your membership, which will resume (with no additional fee) as soon as we are able to open our doors. Or, if you would like to support us and our work by continuing to pay your dues, we will gratefully acknowledge that as a tax-deductible gift.

Please let us know by the end of the day tomorrow, March 28 by sending an email to memberservices@jccstl.org if you wish to freeze your account. If we don’t hear from you and make the change to your account, our system will automatically charge your card. 

If you have any questions about transforming your dues into a tax-deductible donation, please contact Rachel Simoneau (rsimoneau@jccstl.org), Director of Development.

No matter what you decide, please know that we will continue to provide as many services and experiences as we can through your Virtual J until we are advised that it is safe to reopen our doors. Until then, we wish you an abundance of health.

Sincerely,

Patrick McKee
Director of Fitness & Membership


Updated March 17, 2020

Dear J Family,

It has been an unprecedented day. About 24 hours ago, we committed wholly and uncompromisingly to your health and the health of our community by making the difficult decision to close our doors tonight. While it saddens us that, temporarily, we are not able to gather together in person, our staff has committed to serving you in other ways – and we are really excited about that.

Since we made the announcement, we’ve received dozens of messages of support from members, donors, partners and vendors. We are truly humbled to hear how much we mean to our community. Thank you for your confidence and continued support.

With the support of the JCC Board of Directors, we have established these guiding principles for membership dues. Questions regarding tuition or registration fees can be directed to your program manager.

J Membership is a diverse and engaging experience; even as our buildings close, we continue to explore ways to serve the community, engage our members, and deliver a unique experience for all. Our members will have three options for membership dues payment, effective April 1st, 2020:

1. Continue to support the critical work, inclusive mission, and professional staff of the J through your ongoing membership. We have made a commitment to our staff members to pay them through this period when the agency is closed.

2. Freeze your current membership account, at no charge, and re-activate your membership without penalty upon the building’s reopening. Please notify us of your desire to freeze your membership by March 27.

3. Cancel your membership by March 27, and incur any applicable rejoining fees upon re-enrollment. You may also request a prorated refund for March.

Requests for a membership freeze, cancellation, or additional inquiries should be directed to our Member Services Department at memberservices@jccstl.org. Unless we hear from you, we will assume you have chosen the first option. We are happy to provide tax letters to anyone who chooses this option.

You have told us, with your voices and actions, that being a member of the J is more than access to a building. We believe that membership is about connection to one another, a shared vision for the future, and an investment in the values we share.

We want to thank our members who have already demonstrated their commitment to our mission and staff. We are blessed to partner with members and users who recognize that our staff family delivers exceptional service, with a tremendous amount of heart and expertise, and are enthusiastic to support our staff at this time.

In the days ahead, the J team will be ramping up the online resources, content and engagement opportunities available to our community. If you have an idea, want to connect with community members, or otherwise want to explore ways to demonstrate our values and celebrate our community (in the most social-distancing-sensitive way!) please reach out to us. Be well!

B’Shalom,

Lynn Wittels
President & CEO

Greg Siwak
Board Chair


Updated March 16, 2020

Dear Members of the J Family,

The information, advisories and restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 virus have been extremely fluid, and we have navigated each wave to the best of our abilities. In fact, as we were writing this, the latest round of expert guidance was issued from Washington. 

Although we want to be available for those who need us, we must adhere to CDC, and now city, county, state and federal government guidelines to do our part to help flatten the curve of the spread of this virus. We serve important community needs, including bringing people together in our fitness centers, but the evidence is clear, that for the sake of our staff and our community, we can no longer keep our doors open to the public.

After much consultation and deliberation, here is where we are today:

All J programs (including our fitness centers) will close beginning at 6pm tomorrow, March 17, and will be closed through Friday, April 3. We will reopen as soon as we have been advised that it is safe to do so. Most program participants and families will receive a separate, more detailed email; however, we will continue to add information about specific programs as it becomes available on our website. And, of course, we will keep you updated via email.

During this temporary period, we are committed to serving you in other ways – look for online workout opportunities, ideas for engaging your children at home, even reading and viewing suggestions from our cultural arts staff – all coming soon.

Thank you to those of you who have contacted us with suggestions and concerns and to those who have sent us messages of confidence and encouragement. We appreciate your feedback, and we value our amazing community.

Stay well and please continue to keep in touch. We hope to be back together very soon.

B’Shalom,

Lynn Wittels
President & CEO

Greg Siwak
Board Chair 


March 13

The Best Way to Prevent Illness is to Avoid Exposure

Dear J Family,

As you likely know, today, the County Executive declared a state of emergency (following the Mayor’s declaration yesterday) and prohibited public events larger than 250 people. At this time, we are evaluating our ability to reschedule our affected programs. We appreciate your patience as we sort these out. For your convenience, we have created a page on our website that lists all of these events along with what details are available at this time. 

Program Updates

Please be assured that we continue to monitor and follow CDC and St. Louis County Health Department guidelines regarding cleaning and disinfecting, and we encourage you to do the same. 

We ask that you continue to support our efforts:

Do not come to the J if you are feeling sick. PLEASE do not come here to “sweat it out.”

Wipe down your equipment before and after each use.

Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow/sleeve.

Wash your hands, with soap, before and after working out, after coughing or sneezing. 

New: Group Ex Studio Changes

Until this situation has passed, we will make some changes with regard to props:

Props that can be easily cleaned – steps, hand weights and kettlebells and blocks will be cleaned at the end of each day, and in between classes as time permits.

Blankets will be removed from the studios. You might want to bring your own blanket or a beach towel instead.

For now, we will leave the bolsters in the studios – if you choose to use a bolster, please cover it with a towel and place the towel in the used towel receptacles after class.

We will clean mats at least at the end of each day, but we encourage you to bring your own. We are also looking at affordable mats to offer our members for purchase.

Please do not come to class if you’re feeling ill.


Updated March 11, 2020

Dear Members of the J Family,

Now that news about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has become more local, I want to reassure you that we are keeping up to date on the situation and proactively seeking and following recommendations from the appropriate authorities to minimize the risk.

Today, we were made aware of some rumors about the coronavirus and the J, and want you to know that we do not, at this time, have any knowledge about cases among those who use our facilities.

We also reached out to a physician at the St. Louis County Health Department, who shared with us that they believe the risk to our J community is extremely low unless a person has been exposed to someone who is symptomatic. It is believed that the transmission of this virus requires very close contact with a symptomatic person.

“I would like to reiterate that, based on your description, the risk to your staff and other patrons of the JCC is very low. In fact, the CDC states:

Contacts of Asymptomatic People Exposed to COVID-19
“CDC does not recommend testing, symptom monitoring or special management for people exposed to asymptomatic people with potential exposures to SARS-CoV-2 (such as in a household), i.e., “contacts of contacts;” these people are not considered exposed to SARS-CoV-2.”
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html

The reason for the above recommendation is that there is little evidence so far that asymptomatic people can shed the virus.”

Please know that we remain vigilant about our cleaning and disinfecting procedures:

We use high-level, hospital-grade, antiviral cleaning agents to properly disinfect the entire facility on a daily basis. We have reviewed our daily cleaning and sanitation protocol for all program areas and have modified and enhanced procedures where appropriate.

– Every surface in our fitness center (all pads, handles, control panels and adjustment knobs) is cleaned multiple times daily by our staff – and we hope, additionally by you.
– In our restrooms and locker rooms, all surfaces (counters, sinks, floors, benches, showers, door handles) are cleaned/disinfected multiple times daily.
– In our Early Childhood Centers and babysitting areas, all toys and surfaces are sanitized each evening, as well as before and after meals.

We have ordered additional hand sanitizers to place in heavily trafficked areas of our facilities. Those should arrive soon.

Please continue to help us in our efforts to promote and maintain a healthy environment here at the J:

If you are not feeling well and exhibit any symptoms of illness, please refrain from using the J until all symptoms have subsided. If you have a fever, please make sure that you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication before returning to the J to use the facilities or participate in any programs.

If your children are enrolled in any of our youth programs, please keep your children home if they are sick. If you are an ECC family, please strictly adhere to our “return to school” guidelines for your children after an illness. Also, if you are called to pick up a sick child from any of our programs please arrive in as timely a manner as is safely possible.

If you are planning to do any personal travel in the coming months and during the upcoming spring break season, please take a moment to familiarize yourselves with information about the areas where infection rates are high and the chance for disease transmission is heightened. You can find information on the CDC’s Coronavirus Disease Travel Page HERE.

If you work out in either of our Fitness Centers, please make sure you clean the equipment using the spray bottles and paper towels or blue rags that are provided. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to clean the equipment both before and after use. The solution in the spray bottles is created specifically for facilities like fitness centers and serve many purposes including one-step disinfectant, sanitizer, fungicide, mildewstat, virucide and deodorizer. The solution we use has demonstrated effectiveness against viruses similar to the novel coronavirus on hard, non-porous surfaces.

Please wash your hands frequently, consider carrying hand sanitizer to use if soap and water is not readily available, cover your mouth and nose when sneezing (if a tissue is not readily available, use the upper part of your arm/sleeve), and properly dispose of tissues and paper towels in appropriate trash receptacles.

Please place J towels in designated receptacles. Please do not leave them in public areas, locker rooms or in the fitness centers.

We are committed to regularly communicating with you and will share information and guidelines as we receive them from local, state and national authorities.

We will maintain diligent efforts to mitigate exposure to and transmission of infectious disease within our J community and ask that each of you please do your part in continuing to ensure the health, safety and well-being of everyone. As always, please feel free to contact me with any specific questions or concerns.

B’Shalom,

Lynn Wittels
President & CEO
The J

For any of you who would like more information about the Coronavirus, frequently asked questions, or how to mitigate the transmission of the disease, I am providing the following links for your review: CDC Coronavirus Fact Sheet 1 and CDC Coronavirus Fact Sheet 2.