The Stiffel Senior Center in South Philadelphia officially closed its doors on July 29, marking the end of an era. The building first opened as a Jewish education center in 1928.
According to officials with the Klein JCC, which oversaw the facility, many of the 450 seniors who attended the center have already begun going to three nearby facilities.
Klein announced that starting Aug. 5, it will host weekly Friday Shabbat lunch programs at the Jewish Community Services Building at 2100 Arch Street. They will begin around noon and are open to all seniors but geared for former Stiffel participants. SEPTA Paratransit will provide rides from South Philly.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia owns the Stiffel building. It's not clear yet what the agency plans to do with the site.
Klein's board voted on April 12 to close Stiffel, citing the fact the center was operating at a $200,000 deficit and the building was in need of about $400,000 in repairs. Klein officially took over the running of Stiffel in 2009, with the decentralization of the Jewish Community Centers.
A group of advocates launched a "Save Our Stiffel" coalition, what many considered a quixotic effort to keep the center open. According to Raechel Hammer, Klein's vice president of strategic development, the group had until June 30 to raise $200,000 and come up with pledges to fund the center in the future.
The group fell short. Hammer said that they raised about $50,000. Laurel Katz , a South Philly resident and Stiffel volunteer who spearheaded the group, said the number was closer to $70,000, with an additional $40,000 or so in pledges.
Katz said the group is committed to somehow finding a way to reopen the facility, though it is not at all clear just who would operate it and how they could accomplish such a feat. She declined to go into any specifics.
"We are working on it," she said. "It is not going to be easy."
For information on the Shabbat lunch program, call the Klein JCC at 215-698-7300.