The leadership of Latet – Israeli Humanitarian Aid, said they are grateful that they will be able to continue to fund the redistribution of food to impoverished Israel residents, many of whom are elderly or Holocaust survivors, and provide emergency aid, thanks to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
Latet provides monetary and food assistance to more than 1,000 Holocaust survivors and 60,000 families. They see the Jewish Federation’s grant program as more than just an opportunity to gain resources, but also an opportunity to maintain and advance their goals.
“There’s a strong message built on trust and understanding, understanding that we are together to fight against poverty and food insecurity,” Latet CEO Eran Weintraub said. Latet, which means “to give” in Hebrew, has worked with the Jewish Federation for 15 years.
The Jewish Federation announced on June 24 that it will make a $15 million investment in the Jewish community of Philadelphia, Israel and beyond, representing $9.1 million in grant allocations and fund distributions — including the grant awarded to Latet — to be distributed among 91 programs within 66 organizations.
The Jewish Federation will also invest $5.2 million to community programs, such as the Mitzvah Food Program, Jewish camp scholarships and trips to Israel, as well as $1.2 million dollars in real estate subsidies to allow agencies to rent on the Jewish Federation’s campus for free or reduced rates.
This investment comes in addition to the Jewish Federation raising and distributing $4.8 million in emergency COVID relief in the Philadelphia area and Israel, and $870,000 in emergency funding to Israel, following the military action by Hamas and other militant groups in May.
“Our job is to help to create sustainability, both for individuals who are in need during this time, as well as for institutions that are serving the community in a time with tremendous financial uncertainty,” Jewish Federation CEO and President Michael Balaban said.
Balaban began his tenure as CEO on June 1, and he has already worked to engage with the Jewish Federation’s partners on a meaningful level: “Less than two weeks in, I’ve learned God gives us two ears and one mouth; we should spend more time listening than we do talking. It’s really important at this early stage of my being in the community to hear from our stakeholders and our partners about what the opportunities are, what the needs are and what the interests are.”
The Jewish Federation will prioritize grant allocations to three areas: serving vulnerable populations, shaping the Jewish future and supporting Israel and world Jewry.
Among the organizations working to serve vulnerable populations is the Hebrew Free Loan Society in Philadelphia. The Jewish Federation will help fund “The Way Forward: Towards Financial Security with Dignity and Respect” program, designed to provide interest-free, no-fee loans to borrowers who may not have a cosigner with good credit or a cosigner who does not live in the area.
The 37-year-old agency awards loans of up to $7,500 to community members looking to pay medical bills, home and auto repairs and for housing.
Though the organization was able to provide emergency grants during the COVID-19 pandemic, non-COVID-related loans are in high demand.
“As we see people going back to work and feeling more confident in the economy, people are more willing now to take out loans for things that they might have had to put on the back burner last year,” said Cheryl Barish Erlick, the loan society’s executive director.
OneTable Philadelphia, which is a part of the Jewish Federation’s focus of “shaping Jewish futures,” is another organization looking to aid Philadelphians. Through The Shabbat Project, Inc., OneTable subsidizes Shabbat dinners and events for 20- and 30-something Jews who are hoping to connect with Shabbat rituals in personal and meaningful ways. OneTable has staff in Pittsburgh, but not Philadelphia, which has limited its ability to establish a local audience.
“[Philadelphia] has been a growing community. And there’s been a lot of demand for quite a while,” Vice President of Development and Expansion Julia Malkin Reger said.
The Jewish Federation’s grant will allow OneTable to hire a field manager in Philadelphia to liaise with the young Jewish community in the city, broadening the audience, as well as building connections with local businesses to provide food and drinks for Shabbat dinners.
Also looking to expand is Makom Community, which is located in Center City. Created eight years ago by Beverly Socher-Lerner, Makom Community provides “Jewish enrichment in an afterschool context,” by “inviting children to engage with Jewish wisdom.” The allocation will allow it to open a second location in South Philadelphia (sharing a space with the South Philadelphia Shtiebel), and launch new programs for parents and families.
Ultimately, the goal of these grants is the same as any year, according to Balaban: “to care for the needs of the Jewish people and work to build a more vibrant Jewish future.”
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