Update: How Jewish Federation is Responding to Coronavirus

As of April 20, 2020, the Jewish Federation has distributed $544,800 in coronavirus relief funds in addition to helping in several areas:

  • Working to determine the community’s growing needs​
  • Providing government relations support for SBA loans and other regulations​
  • Providing webinars for the entire community with experts from CDC and labor attorneys​
  • Assessing security needs – both physical and cybersecurity​
  • Providing virtual programming and content for different audiences​
  • Conducting a needs assessment to smaller organizations and synagogues​
  • Conducting a needs assessment to individuals to connect them to services

Because the Jewish Federation already had excellent relationships with our primary beneficiary agencies as well as with the many other Jewish agencies and synagogues in Pittsburgh, the Federation was able to remain in constant communication with our beneficiary agencies, community leaders, and overseas partners as part of the needs assessment to understand pain points, both financial and operational; to develop a short-, medium-, and long-term list of financial needs​; and to itemize the needs with dollar amounts.

The Federation’s board of directors authorized a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Committee (a subset of the existing Planning and Funding Committee) to redirect funds to immediate relief needs. Following this quick needs assessment, on March 31, the committee approved $183,600 to local beneficiary agencies and $66,400 to overseas partners​. On April 6, the Committee approved an additional $294,800 to local agencies​. These funds are a combination of campaign and foundation allocations that were reallocated and supplemental donor gifts. Funding enabled:

  • The Jewish Association on Aging (JAA) is keeping their staff and residents safe. The Federation has provided funds for:​
    • 1,000 reusable face shields ($5,000)​
    • 5,000 disposable isolation gowns ($25,000)​
    • Two sanitizing machines ($4,000)​
  • Support for vulnerable populations, including funds for Jewish Residential Services (JRS) to purchase new technology to reach roughly 75 people per day ($10,000):
    • Nine phones to contact clubhouses members
    • Three laptops for staff to provide services to ~ 40 people/day
    • IT support specific for people with disabilities
  • Emergency funding for people in financial need, including:
    • The Jewish Assistance Fund ($50,000):
      • Assistance for expenses such as food, rent, utilities, household repairs, medicine and other essential needs
      • A voice on the phone to help people maneuver a new landscape of services
    • Hebrew Free Loan Association (HFLA) provided an additional seven loans to professionals to address unexpected living and business expenses ($20,000)
    • Jewish Family and Community Service (JFCS) can grant 100 families an emergency grant of $500 each through SOS Pittsburgh ($50,000)
  • Food insecurity and employment assistance, enabling JFCS to:
    • Provide 1,000 boxes of emergency food to people in crisis ($20,000)​
    • Staff the food pantry, which frees up professionals to perform revenue-generating work ($23,600)​
    • Hire one FTE in the Career Development Center to assist ~66 clients in three months ($23,000)
    • Hire two FTE case workers to assist 250 people (primarily immigrants and older adults) to complete their online benefit applications ($25,000)​
    • Provide telephone interpretation for 350 hours to assist immigrant clients with online applications to receive their benefits ($15,000)
  • Children, teens and their families:
    • Staff the Community Hotline to answer critical calls about mental health support, supplemental food, rental assistance, employment help, and medical needs ($5,000)​
    • Purchase laptops and printers for Yeshiva Schools  families to engage in virtual learning ($20,000)​
    • Make a loan to the JCC to pay its employer premiums for furloughed employees ($97,500 interest-free)​

Stories from people directly affected by this funding has been heartwarming. The spouse of a JAA resident said, “The only way I am getting through this nightmare is knowing that my wife is being taking care of so beautifully.” A client of Hebrew Free Loan commented,

“I’ve never had to apply for any kind of loans before. This was so much easier than I expected, and you have no idea how much of help it’s going to be to me and my family. Thank you so much for being here and doing the important work you do!​”

The Federation also received positive feedback from agency staff and volunteers. The chair of the board of JFCS commented, “Your continued support for JFCS is quite meaningful and we value our ongoing relationship that allows us to make a difference in the lives of individuals in our community.” The chair of JRS’s board of directors said, “JRS is so appreciative of Federation’s support in these difficult times, and always.”

JFCS related a story about two Pittsburghers, Ron and Julie (names disguised), who have been living in Pittsburgh for the past year and approached the Food Pantry for the first-time last week. They have never utilized a food pantry before and were clearly uncomfortable with needing to do so. ​In addition to reassuring them and providing them with food, JFCS referred Ron and Julie to the Career Development Center. JFCS also connected them with resources outside of the Jewish community for other kinds of potential assistance.

The Jewish Federation’s financial resources development team continues to work hard to increase the unrestricted Community Campaign that makes this work possible. More help is still needed: seniors continue to live in isolation​, furloughed employees need to provide food for their families​, people living with mental health issues require specialized assistance​, Jewish children need a Jewish education​, and organizations are still relying on allocations from the Federation’s Community Campaign to pay employees, to provide innovative programming, and to keep the lights on so that Jewish Pittsburgh can continue once people are able to leave their homes.

In addition to Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s direct contributions, our national partner Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) tapped into Israel emergency funds (partly established by Pittsburgh contributions through our Federation’s Community Campaign) to make the following allocations to our international partners:

  • $350,000 to the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) for direct services to Jewish seniors internationally
  • $200,000 to the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) to support residents of Amigur housing facilities with protective equipment, hygiene supplies and food
  • $200,000 for loan funds for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that Pittsburgh supports
  • $75,000 to the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC) for their work with first responders

JAFI is also working to establish a loan fund to preserve infrastructure in Jewish communities around the world, available to Jewish organizations around the world for four years with a one-year grace period. A global partnership between JAFI, Keren Ha’Yesod and JFNA will create this loan fund, and the leadership of these organizations will oversee the loans in a newly formed ad-hoc committee.

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