PHOTO: The lobby at ther Mittleman Jewish Community Center is starting to feel like the community's living room once again.
BY DEBORAH MOON
The Mittleman Jewish Community Center is poised to reclaim its title as the “living room of the Jewish community” as the lobby reopens, in-person classes resume and sports options expand.
But as COVID restrictions have been relaxed, the MJCC moves forward into a new normal drawing on the lessons learned during 16 months of pandemic existence. The J has received several grants to upgrade the ballroom to facilitate hybrid events. Hybrid events allow those outside the metro area or those unable to come to the J to attend virtually the many community events held in the ballroom during normal years. Fitness classes, Hebrew conversation and knitting club continue to have online options.
“The pandemic has allowed us to leverage technology to serve a larger area – we are the only JCC in the state,” says MJCC Executive Director Steve Albert. “It is another tool in the toolbox to serve the community.”
The center posts updates on open hours, programs and guidelines on its website at oregonjcc.org/we-are-open. The webpage notes: “A great deal will be changing at the MJCC in the coming weeks as we gradually reopen facilities and resume programs and services. Our reopening will take place in stages, and we’ve included an overview of these phases.”
Steve notes that the dates for expanded hours and programs on the page reflect both the center’s ability to hire necessary staff and assumes that the state or city will not need to re-impose COVID restrictions.
Drop-in basketball has returned to the J’s gym to bring friends and strangers together three days a week for physical activity and camaraderie, just one of the ways recreation is returning to the J as we emerge from the global pandemic. Members can now use the pool without reservations and can reserve racquetball courts and basketball courts during open hours. MJCC day camps and specialty camps presented by the Skyhawks are meeting in the J’s Sportsplex and in the gym. Adult and youth soccer leagues, which met in the spring, will return in full force in the fall season.
Also set to return by fall is the Café at the J (oregonjcc.org/about-us/cafe-at-the-j), which expects to resume serving food inside around the time Portland Jewish Academy students return to campus Aug. 31. Until then, the Café will continue to offer kosher meals to go for Shabbat and holidays. And owner Allen Levin continues to offer kosher, plant-based meals at Garbonzos food cart in the MJCC parking lot. (Those attending events such as concerts and films at the Zidell Yards on the South Waterfront also can enjoy Garbonzos’ falafel, veggie kofta made from Beyond Burger, grilled vegetable plates, and a variety of salads and dips).
On July 12, guests were once again welcomed to the center, and guest passes to use the pools and fitness facilities became available. That week, an array of in-person programs began meeting in the lobby. Canasta and Mah Jongg classes began in person. More classes and cultural programs will be added in the coming weeks. The “Shabbat table” in the lobby once again features information from local synagogues to help people find a place to celebrate Shabbat. Other tables feature MJCC program information, local resources and publications, including printed copies of the Jewish Review. Bulletin boards hold community announcements.
All of which gives the space the renewed feeling of a comfortable and inviting living room.