After a weekend of New Year’s festivities, 345 people received PCR COVID-19 tests at Gratz College on Jan. 3. The pop-up COVID-19 testing clinic was conducted in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the Kehillah of Old York Road, Gratz College and Tang Pharmacy. In an effort to reduce financial barriers, test-takers without insurance were not charged for their PCR COVID-19 tests.
“As COVID cases rise, it’s so important that people have access to free and accurate testing,” said Kim Decker, director of the Old York Road Kehillah and lead organizer of the clinic. “It’s a Jewish value that we care deeply about all the members of our community, and it is a real source of pride that we were able to embody this value through organizing the testing clinic.”
That Jewish value of care was deeply felt by many of those who visited the site that day. The clinic provided relief for hundreds of nervous individuals and families that were unsure of their health status during a nationwide shortage of tests and a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the delta and omicron variants.
“My family was in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID. While my wife and I are vaccinated and boosted, my children are not, and I was extremely concerned for their health,” explained Josh Katz, who was tested at the clinic. “I am so grateful for the OYR testing clinic, and we are so blessed to have a Jewish community that comes together at this most difficult time in our lives.”
This is not the first time the Old York Road Kehillah, a neighborhood initiative of the Jewish Federation, was there for its community during the pandemic. Last year, the kehillah partnered with the Jewish Federation, Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel and Wellness Pharmacy Services on a community-wide vaccination clinic. Overall, the clinic provided 1,432 people, Jewish and non-Jewish, with their first and second dose of the Moderna vaccine on March 19 and April 16 at KI synagogue.
“The Jewish Federation is proud to partner with the Old York Road Kehillah throughout the COVID pandemic and most recently with the scarcity of tests,” said Rachel Berger, Jewish Federation’s director of Jewish Life and Neighborhood Initiatives. “It is a privilege to be able to provide this resource, knowing that many in our community need tests for a variety of reasons, such as safely returning to school after winter break and visiting friends and family.”
The Jewish Federation has provided relief and support throughout the pandemic, having quickly mobilized at COVID’s inception to raise funds to help agencies on the frontlines to address emergency needs. To date, the Jewish Federation has raised and leveraged $4.8 million to assist those impacted by the pandemic. Funds supported individuals struggling from financial distress, food insecurity, physical and mental health challenges, and more.
The testing clinic at Gratz College remained open for five hours, from 3-8 p.m., on Jan. 3. All visitors were required to properly wear masks when not being tested and wait outside to keep indoor occupancy to a minimum.
“Gratz College has a long record of standing alongside the Kehillah of Old York Road and the Jewish Federation,” Gratz President Zev Eleff said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to renew that commitment and support the health and safety of our beloved community.”
Tests were available for all ages and backgrounds, and the clinic accommodated walk-ins in addition to those who preregistered. As a result of the increased demand in tests, some results were delayed. However, the mass effort to bring testing to Old York Road was an achievement of fortitude, quick planning and the commitment to uplift the community through these challenging times.
“As a nurse, I keep a close eye on the effects of COVID and its implications for families. Younger families are most vulnerable, since our youngest are not eligible for vaccines, and families need tests to remain in day care, playing with friends and developing new skills,” explained Sharon Katz, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who received a test from the clinic. “I want to thank all of the groups that made this clinic possible and helped our community navigate another surge.”