Jewish Federation Reaches Over $6 Million Milestone in COVID-19 Relief

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh distributed additional COVID-19 relief today, bringing the total to a milestone of over $6 million. The distribution follows the Federation Board of Directors’ most recent approval Nov. 11.

“Because our Community Campaign raises unrestricted dollars, the Jewish Federation was able to respond with emergency funding as early as March 31,” says David D. Sufrin, chair of the Jewish Federation’s board. “We saw an enormous number of families suffering health and financial impacts, and we knew that the Jewish Federation needed to lead Jewish Pittsburgh through this crisis.”

The $6 million in funding comes at a critical moment for Jewish households in Pittsburgh, says Jan Levinson, chair of the Jewish Federation’s Community Campaign.

“Jewish Federation funded a study over the summer on COVID-19’s impact on our Jewish community. It revealed a looming mental health crisis among young adults and a dire warning that job losses and financial hardship will push families already at risk of falling into poverty over the edge. This is a perfect example of why we need a strong Community Campaign— it enables us to respond immediately during a crisis.”

Jan Levinson, Community Campaign chair

Volunteers are working closely with Jewish Federation planning experts and the Jewish Federation’s eight main beneficiary agencies and their two historical overseas partners to continually track and fund areas of greatest need. The key impact areas include health and wellness, emergency funding and food insecurity, physical-space needs for proper social distancing, capacity building and maintaining Jewish identity.

“The needs far outstrip the resources available,” says Community Campaign co-chair Debbie Resnick.

“We identified more than $11 million in needs from our local beneficiary agencies over and above our annual allocations due to the pandemic, and millions more in Israel and in Jewish communities worldwide. On top of that, those struggling before the pandemic began need our help now more than ever. The Community Campaign must reach its $14 million goal and beyond to meet these historic challenges.”

Debbie Resnick, Community Campaign co-chair

Sufrin cited some specific examples of these needs as COVID-19 cases rise in Allegheny County. “Almost every front-line worker needed personal protective equipment. The Jewish Federation provided over $540,000 to the Jewish Association on Aging specifically for the COVID-19 crisis for personal protective equipment, air filtration and other needs to keep our seniors safe. To provide remote learning, Jewish day schools needed technology and teacher training.

People who typically went to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh to receive kosher meals needed meal delivery. Many Jewish families, facing unemployment, needed immediate, direct financial help. Many of these needs continue today.”

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) jump-started the Jewish Federation toward the milestone of $6 million with $2.5 million in seed money designated for the Jewish Community Center to target health and human service needs that have risen dramatically.

“Such extreme need called for a coordinated fundraising approach,” explains Jeffrey H. Finkelstein, Jewish Federation president and CEO. “We knew that some of the most generous donors would receive COVID-19 relief requests from multiple organizations, so this crisis required an extraordinary level of cooperation. One of the strengths of Jewish Federation’s Community Campaign is the trust it enables us to build with Jewish agencies so that in times of crisis, we already know how to work together.”

While most needs are local, Jewish communities around the world still need significant help. A portion of the distributions will go to these communities in regions including Israel, the former Soviet Union and Argentina. The Federation’s overseas partners, the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), distribute the funds.

Levinson explains, “In Jewish communities overseas, as in Pittsburgh, the pandemic resulted in widespread unemployment, food insecurity, disruption in the supply of medicines and a shortage of medical care, among other problems.”

In Israel, Jewish Federation support helps to provide day care for the children of medical professionals in 14 hospitals, so hospital staff can attend to the caseload spike. In Israel, the former Soviet Union and Argentina, Federation resources provide hygiene supplies, emergency medicine and care for the neediest Jews, including homebound seniors.

“None of this work would be possible without our amazing donors and the strength of the Community Campaign,” says Levinson. “The Jewish Federation can respond in a crisis because they were here before the crisis and will be here when it’s over.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, one of 146 independent Federations associated with
The Jewish Federations of North America, raises and allocates funds to build community locally, in Israel and around the world. With the vision of a thriving, vibrant and engaged Jewish community, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh aims to carry out its work in the context of cooperation and inclusiveness.

The eight beneficiary agencies of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh are the Edward & Rose Berman Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh, Jewish Association on Aging, Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, Jewish Family and Community Services, Jewish Residential Services, Community Day School, Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, and Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh. Jewish human services agencies serve people of all backgrounds.

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