After over 70 years as separate organizations, Jewish Long Beach and the Barbara Ray Albert Jewish Community Center (AJCC) will merge into one.
Unanimously passed by the boards of both agencies, the integration of the two nonprofits will signal “the dawn of an exciting and unprecedented new era for our Jewish community and its agencies,” said Jewish Long Beach CEO Zach Benjamin.
Before the merge, Jewish Long Beach partially funded the AJCC through one of its grant programs, meaning the two organizations were integrally tied together long before the merge.
“The missions are really complementary,” Benjamin said. “We share a commitment to ensuring that our area remains an environment where Jewish life can thrive and advance, really across the lifecycle from generation to generation.”
Tracing its roots back to the 1929 creation of Jewish Welfare Funds, Jewish Long Beach follows the model of a Jewish Federation. These federations helped fund the movement of Jewish refugees fleeing persecution from Europe during the early- to mid-20th century.
Once World War II concluded and these groups had resettled, organizations like Jewish Long Beach shifted their focus.
“We started really focusing on serving the local Jewish community’s needs and then evolved over the decades to serve the broad community from a Jewish value system,” Benjamin said.
While Jewish Long Beach focuses on the creation and distribution of strategic grants and leadership development, the AJCC serves as a community-facing organization.
“[The AJCC] serves more as a community center, as a physical space, to gather and engage in community cultural activities,” Benjamin said. The AJCC provides early childhood education, after-school programs, summer camps, fitness and aquatics activities.
Conversations about merging the two nonprofits have been brewing for years.
“Amid the pandemic, it became very clear that this was the right decision for both organizations,” said Deborah Goldfarb who retired in 2019 as the CEO of the Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation. She was recruited out of retirement in August of 2020 to serve as the interim executive director of the AJCC.
Benjamin said that, although both organizations were able to have a “tremendous positive impact” during the pandemic, the two organizations wanted to make sure they’d be able to weather the storm during future crises.
“We’ll be able to be even more efficient, effective and impactful in our ability to serve the community,” Benjamin said. “If those firewalls that currently—and have always existed—between us, from an operational standpoint, are just lifted.”
He said that the community should expect the same quality of programming and services.
For residents who have questions about the merge, the two organizations will be holding “Dream With Us,” a virtual town hall meeting to outline the integrated structure, mission and vision, and consolidation process.
The town hall will take place on Wednesday, May 5 at 7 p.m. Interested parties can register to participate in the town hall here.