The National Council of Jewish Women’s Los Angeles section is selling the building at 543 N. Fairfax Ave. that has been its headquarters since 1961 as well as a meeting place for groups such as the Mid City West Community Council, Alcoholics Anonymous and women’s rights activists and host to a variety of West Hollywood-sponsored human rights events.
Marjorie Gilberg, NCJW/LA’s CEO, said the sale currently is in escrow and she cannot disclose the identity of the buyer.
Gilberg said the sale is part of a series of changes NCJW/LA has been making over the past two years as it implements a new vision for the non-profit organization. Gilberg said NCJW/LA has been going through a process of “sunsetting some services from the past and starting a new ones” and now is focused more intensely on economic justice and stability for low-income women.
Women’s rights activist Rachel Kauffman formed NCJW’s Los Angeles section in June 1909 with 15 other women and a year later the organization had more than 100 members. Its many accomplishments over the years have included organizing a nursery school for working mothers, helping refugees emigrate to the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, launching the Talk Project sexual-violence awareness program for teenage girls, advocating for women’s reproductive rights and LGBT rights, and lobbying for bail reform and more family-friendly work schedules. NCJW/LA, with a grant from the City of West Hollywood, also provides rental assistance for those suffering financially from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gilberg says the organization doesn’t actually need a 15,835-square-foot building (with 54 parking spaces) for its relatively small staff (which includes a facility maintenance team.) And it has faced a decline in revenue from one its primary sources — its seven thrift shops. Those shops receive more than 100,000 donations of clothes, jewelry and art and furniture and accessories every year. Revenue from the shops makes up more than 73% of NCJW/LA’s budget, and it gives away more than $431,000 of goods to people in need.
“In last few years there has been a change in the business model and a decrease in profit percentage,” Gilberg said, noting the growing propensity of people to shop online and the fact that the costs of running the thrift shops has increased because of steps NCJW/LA has taken to increase the benefits available to its employees. ” We are an organization that has to put its money where its mouth is,” she said, in a reference to NCJW’s advocacy for fair wages and worker benefits.
Gilberg said NCJW/LA also has ended its paid membership program, which generated a very small percentage of its overall revenue, in an effort to build a more inclusive community of supporters.
“We have found that our individual support base has increased in both the number and size of donations now that we eliminated the ‘membership’ exclusivity,” she said. “It has also helped to build a more diverse community of volunteers and supporters — which is important to us as we are not set up to be specifically targeting any single population of women in Los Angeles. We do provide ‘honorary memberships’ to donors who contribute over $100/year — similar to a PBS/NPR/ACLU model. This has been a very positive change for our organization.”
Gilberg said she expects the sale of the building to be completed by October. “We expect that we will have enough of a cushion for a period of time that we can build a more diverse revenue model. Historically we haven’t needed that.”
She said the organization hasn’t decided where to relocate but might use some of the space it has leased for its thrift shops. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, its staff members currently are working from home.