Impact Stories:

COVID-19 Relief Stories: The Baker Family

Giving Comfort Where Comfort Is Possible

Suzanne, Jason and Steven Baker pose with Max Steinberg in a Sukkah. Someone attaches decorations to the roof in the background.
Suzanne, Jason and Steven Baker with friend and fellow JRS client, Max Steinberg.

The threat of COVID-19 cost Jason Baker his job, the joys of eating out and dancing, and time with his family. One reason these losses are so distressing to Jason, 38, is that he cannot understand why they happened.

Jason has intellectual disabilities and is nonverbal. When the pandemic hit, he could not completely grasp the reason for social distancing.

Fortunately, thanks in part to funding from the Jewish Federation, Jason lives in a Jewish Residential Services (JRS) home where he gets the support he needs. Federation has provided JRS with backing for decades, allowing them to build a support system that enables the organization to face any crisis quickly and compassionately. With Federation funding now and in previous years, JRS has been and continues to be a safe and steady support for Jason and their other clients.

In this crisis, COVID-related rules keep JRS residents safe. Jason's mother, Suzanne Baker, says that Jason has "asked in his own way why we can't see each other." In reply, she gestures to symbolize a bug; as long as the COVID bug is around, family time is limited.

Support for People with Disabilities by the Numbers

A few of the many ways the Community Campaign has supported Jewish Pittsburgh through the COVID-19 crisis.

To help JRS clients connect with family and friends, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh funded technology to allow virtual visits. Although virtual visits have not eased Jason's distress, Jason's family takes comfort in the online contact. The visits allow Suzanne and others to see that, although Jason does not understand the reason for all the changes in his life, he does not face the changes alone.

To date, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has provided $8.3 million in COVID relief to the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and worldwide, to address the trauma of job loss, food insecurity, illness and uncertainty.

As long as pandemic-related uncertainty remains a part of community life, the Jewish Federation will help to ensure kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh — that all Jews are responsible for each other.


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