Saving the Stiffel Center

“Save Our Stiffel” is the name of a newly-formed group dedicated to keeping the Jacob & Esther Stiffel Senior center, 604 Porter Street in South Philadelphia, from closing due to lack of funds.

Programs held at the Stiffel Center include classes in Yiddish; art, poetry and music classes; cultural and travel experiences; health and exercise programs; traditional holiday programs; daily hot kosher lunches; fitness and wellness classes; medial and legal advice; chaplaincy services; and a thrift shop.

Laurel Katz, actor and radio host, is part of the effort; “No one had organized,” she recalls, “a committee to raise the funds that are needed, because we found  out fairly recently that that Stiffel is operating on a $200 thousand annual deficit, and they need $200 thousand by June 30th, and a promise for future funding, because they want to close it.” The Stiffel Center is a branch of the Klein JCC.

More after the jump.
“There were sort of reasons why,” the Stiffel clients were late in being informed of the closing, adds Katz, “It’s a little confusing and unclear, but the way I went into this is to not think about what happened in the past and what brought us here, but what can we do now, immediately, right away, to remedy this problem, to keep the center open, and that’s my sole focus.”

The committee to save the Stiffel, says Katz, has formed very recently, and “We since have a press release, and we are called ‘Save Our Stiffel’, SOS. No one had really organized something, there wasn’t any organized group, and now there is, and the word is out. We are organized, and we had a very encouraging meeting with a lot of very passionate people, and also people that are very plugged into assorted places in the community. We’re in the process of drawing up a packet to present to people who have the ability to write decent checks, because really, $200 thousand is not a lot of money. If someone wants to write a $200 thousand check, we’ll name the auditorium after them.”

The packet, says Katz, will tell the history of the Stiffel Center, “with the immigrants of South Philadelphia, not just Jews, (but including) the Italian community, and we’re going to get that out to whoever we can.” The packet will focus on people who can write big checks. Along with this will be a more grassroots approach, with such ideas as a concert at the center and a silent auction. “It’s going to be like a blitz,” says Katz, “it has to be because of the time issue.”

Stay tuned to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice for further developments as they occur.



  1. Contributing Writer says

    I read your recent story about Saving The Stiffel in South Philadelphia and wondered why you never requested or at least didn’t indicate in your story that you asked for comments from the Klein JCC which operates the Stiffel Center and has decided to close it due to financial reasons.

    If you did you would have surely discovered that the aging building built in 1928 in addition to running an annual $200,000 operating deficit also is in need of extensive physical repairs, including a new boiler and roof. The estimates to repair both range from $300,000 to $400,000.  This also needs to be accounted for in the current funding issues. The Stiffel is projected to continue to lose funds and the Klein JCC board has not been successful in identifying additional ongoing revenue to eliminate the financial losses.

    In addition, the Klein JCC, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, among other agencies, are working hard to transition, the Stiffel’s members to three nearby senior centers within a three-mile radius in South Philadelphia or the Klein JCC in Northeast Philadelphia using Paratransit services. Many of the current members are already using the other centers on select days of the week of their individual choosing.

    Arrangements also being made to continue to provide kosher meals (through Cook For A Friend) and to  implement additional holiday programs at the other centers. The Jewish Federation has agreed to provide emergency funds to keep the center open until this transition can be successfully accomplished. This additional information surely would have provided greatly clarity in acquainting your readers with the facts of the Stiffel story.

    Stu Coren, President

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