The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has raised more than $2.1 million in emergency relief funds to support our local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the pandemic began, the Jewish Federation’s Emergency Response Committee has actively disbursed grants to local organizations to help them continue to provide critical services, including basic needs like food and health, PPE and funding for camp and educational partners.
The Judith Creed Horizons for Achieving Independence (JCHAI) is one example of the power of harnessing resources to empower community. In the initial days of the pandemic, JCHAI, like many organizations, immediately reached out to the Jewish Federation for support for basic needs, including food and nutrition services.
“One of the hallmarks of our program is getting adults out in the community in positive roles,” JCHAI Director Stacy Levitan said. “Seventy-seven percent of our clients are working in the community, but now many of them are social distancing in their homes and they need more food than ever before. This is where the Jewish Federation’s work to combat food insecurity was incredibly helpful.”
To maintain high levels of safety, JCHAI needed access to health and safety supplies, including face masks, protective gloves and disinfectants. Knowing these resources were scarce, Levitan reached out to the Jewish Federation for guidance. The Jewish Federation assisted them in the purchase of N95 masks for the staff and helped them get creative when it came to other safety measures.
In the early days of the pandemic, there were numerous concerns that communal living spaces were not prepared for the dangers to come. But for Federation Housing, which took an early and proactive response to the crisis, it has proven just the opposite.
“We simply took an immediate and proactive step to curtail all community programs and settings in our building,” explained Eric Naftulin, the executive director and CEO of Federation Housing. “This played a major role in preventing the growth and spread of the virus in our buildings.”
For those residents who relied on discounted meals, the Jewish Federation stepped up to the plate. Federation Housing receives an annual grant from the Jewish Federation to aid its programming, and in April it was announced that all program grants would be unrestricted so recipients could instead use the funds to help with emergency and operational needs. This solved a major challenge for Federation Housing.
“Having the grant flexibility allows us to help with our overall operation and alleviate the burdens for our residents,” Naftulin said. “For example, we would normally source meals for our residents from Philabundance and reduce the cost to our residents to $1. We are now using the Jewish Federation grant to waive the cost completely and make it a free meal for anyone who wants or needs one.”
The Jewish Federation also assisted Federation Housing with securing protective gear such as masks and gloves, as well as toilet paper from a generous donation from the Jewish Federation’s Immediate past board Chair Bud Newman. Naftulin noted that basic supplies were increasingly hard to come by and having access to the necessities was a huge relief for staff and residents.
For people of all ages, finding meaningful ways to connect with others during the pandemic has been challenging. For pre-teens and teenagers, who have been rocked by the pandemic and are missing traditional social environments, organizations like Moving Traditions are stepping up and ensuring this important void is filled.
“Our region’s pre-teens and teens feel a great deal of the anxiety that comes from the uncertainty of these times,” said Moving Traditions founder and CEO Deborah Meyer.
Thanks to the Jewish Federation’s decision to alter its grant structure, Moving Traditions was able to use program grants for operational expenses and can tackle any new obstacles that might arise.
“Thanks to the Jewish Federation, we’ll be able to keep our lights on and keep Zoom on,” Meyer said. “We are so grateful to them and our other funders who have encouraged us to repurpose our donations in any way we see fit in order to keep our work going.”
In the first weeks of the pandemic, organizations that support the food insecure like the Jewish Relief Agency (JRA) stepped up to make sure families and children would not be in danger of going hungry. As social distancing restrictions ease and some businesses reopen, only one thing has changed at JRA: More people need food now than ever before.
“We’re at a very similar place to where we were in April,” JRA Executive Director Jodi Roth-Saks said. “Every day, new people are calling asking for help. It’s clear that food insecurity in our region isn’t going away anytime soon.”
JRA had to find a way to keep its work going and while also providing additional support for their community members in crisis. The first step was to secure more funding, which came by the way of the Jewish Federation’s Emergency Response Fund.
“The Jewish Federation has been phenomenal,” Roth-Saks said. “They’ve made a substantial impact for JRA and the work we’re doing. Thanks to them, we’ve been able to offset much of our additional costs and have also been able to provide essential items like face masks for our clients. The Jewish Federation has been a friend, and we’re extremely grateful.”
Levitan summed up just why the Jewish Federation’s support is critical during times of crisis:
“The Jewish Federation has been an umbrella to help us through the logistics,” she explained. “The money is obviously critical, and it’s amazing to see how they’ve been able to raise all the funds. On top of this, the psychological support has been so helpful. Someone is thinking about us and what we need and how we’ll keep delivering these services so we’re not out there on our own.”