The Closing of the Jewish Center
A Tale of Two Centers
Centers are friendly places where Jews from the community can
congregate, can develop friendships, can meet each other, can
enjoy various forms of recreation, can exchange information,
gossip a bit, express
their manhood through participatory sports, and other
women can find like minded people and age mates, and can
compare their offspring, their growth, and their
can exchange political news, which candidate is healthy for
the Jews, and, best of all, grown men can delight in locker
room jokes, relive their adolescence, and healthy laughter can
be heard and enjoyed. Jewish identity is reinforced and
outsiders can participate and learn about Jews and Judaism
in a benign inviting environment.
This is a place where religious differences among and
within the Jewish Community are forgotten and reform,
conservative and orthodox
members participate freely and peacefully with their fellow
co-religionists. The Centers include people and services for
and of all ages, from children to senior citizens. They
are able to feel safe and welcome and do not have the need to
travel from place to place to meet their various needs. In the
past the Centers were in touch with one another and had a
common agenda and goals, enabling administration and staff to
have curricula which were similarly appealing and which are
of us who have been long time supporters and members of the
Center were shocked to learn that our main Buffalo Jewish
Center, located where the majority of our brethren reside, is
being closed. A
lengthy letter with “explanations” and directives arrived
at our door. Allegations of lack of funds, large deficits, and too much
unneeded space were some of the rationalizations cited.
Consolations were given freely that people could
transfer to the “downtown” center – a center which
serves chiefly the public - not the Jewish population (thus it
excludes the Jewish elderly, for
whom this location is inaccessible), a general gym can be used
somewhere in Amherst (this would break up the friendships
within the members and they would be dispersed as well as not
being Jewish nor having a Jewish orientation), eventually a
new Jewish Center
would possibly be built, etc. etc. How would money be spent
for a new building if there are not enough funds now to retain
that which already exists?
The general membership of the Buffalo Jewish Center
were not really consulted. The participants knew nothing of the plan to close the place
and were shocked, “surprised” and dismayed upon receiving
the letter that made this unfortunate announcement.
there possibly have been some politics or mismanagement in the
decision made? Before the Kadimah School decided to have its own building,
the Jewish Center was asked whether they could utilize a
portion of the Center to house all of the students there.
They were willing to pay rent and renovate the back
portion for classroom space.
Their offerings were turned down without much
move could have lightened the financial burdens for the
Center, in addition to those of
before this final curtain was drawn there was a history of and
self aggrandizement among the management.
It is a story of “Chad Gadyo”.
There was a deep chasm between the factual, the visible
and reality. In
1974, when the Benderson (Amherst) building came into being,
the executive vice president humbled himself to the Board of
Directors publicly. They
called him their Bald Eagle.
The man took off his hat, displayed his hairless
cranium and bowed to the Board and the crowd, displaying his
alleged good nature and good humor. To the staff he became the
angry dictator, and they in turn bowed to his demands with
hostile obedience. Ultimately the membership suffered and were only
superficially “consulted” re their wishes and needs. The
replay of this situation is thus complete!
The Mission of the Jewish Center is thus declared dead! Why would Jewish people want to remain in Buffalo, and why would they want to come here where there is next to no Jewish life left? The Jewish Center held our community together and was a place for warmth, friendship and Yiddishkeit for our brethren. Where is the belief that Jews help one another, that we stand as one? What happened to the application of “Am Yisroel Chai” or “Hine Ma Tov Umanayim” ? With the closing of the Jewish Center of Greater Buffalo we are taking away a great part of the cohesiveness and importance of our Jewish Community of Buffalo.
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).