UJA’s Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

While vaccines are cause for some much-needed optimism, it’s clear that the economic fallout of the pandemic continues to devastate lives. Our focus is on food distribution to help pantries meet rising demand. Workforce development programs that can get the newly unemployed back to stability. Mental health support to help those suffering from the effects of isolation, fear, anxiety, food insecurity, substance abuse, domestic abuse, and more. Support for Jewish institutions that are the anchors of Jewish life.

Most recently, the staggering number of cases in India spurred us to respond by providing funds for medical equipment, food, and other critical support in especially vulnerable communities in India.

Other recent allocations closer to home provide food distribution to hungry New Yorkers, including home delivery of food packages to Holocaust survivors, and advocacy efforts focused on vaccine access. We’re helping the most vulnerable, including the frail elderly and Holocaust survivors, secure appointments. We’re also helping them get transportation to and from vaccine sites. On another front, we’re responding to reports that 42% of New Yorkers are vaccine hesitant, by providing education and outreach.

This may be a challenge unlike any we’ve faced before, but UJA was built for this moment. We’re working around the clock with our diverse and interconnected network to help all those counting on us.

Read A Year of Covid: UJA-Federation Twelve-Month Report. The report details how we've allocated tens of millions of dollars in emergency funding, over and above what we allocate annually, to meet needs across the New York region and Israel.

From February to May 2021, UJA conducted an examination of the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the New York Jewish community. The study provides a snapshot of life during the pandemic in 2021. Explore our Covid-19 Impact Study.

Earlier emergency allocations have supported:

We also know that this is a crisis that has hit painfully close to home for so many of us. For anyone who is coping with illness or loss, our hearts go out to you.

Addressing Essential Human Service Needs
It’s become increasingly clear that food insufficiency, unemployment, and mental health support are critical, ongoing needs, and our current system is stretched to capacity. We’ve allocated an additional $4.6 million to support the expansion of a comprehensive set of safety net services. Funds are being used to create six neighborhood career centers in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, and Westchester. These are satellites of our newly opened Queens Hub, which is offering job training, case management, benefits enrollment, financial and legal counseling, food, emotional support, emergency cash assistance, and more — all under one roof.

The $4.6 million allocation also supports:

  • Converting two more food pantries into a digital system. Currently, 6 of the 18 pantries use a digital system, allowing clients to use technology to choose the foods that make sense for their families. During the pandemic, the digital system has had the added benefit of allowing at-risk individuals to access free, nutritious food of their choice without leaving their homes.

  • Emergency cash assistance for one-time needs, such a rent payment, utility bill, or medical expense.

  • Client participation in certification and retraining programs outside of the UJA-Federation network.

  • Mental health support for members of the day school and synagogue community including faculty, clergy, parents, students, and members.

Food for Vulnerable People
As New York’s central hub of kosher food distribution, our partner Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty has been inundated with requests. Met Council has been called on to serve homebound seniors who can no longer get meals at senior centers, as well as children who are not receiving city-funded hot meals.

  • Early on, we allocated $1 million to Met Council to significantly expand its capacity to serve the community. 

  • We provided funding for Passover meals (detailed below).

  • An additional $620,000 has been allocated to support food programs at Met Council and other agencies distributing food.

  • We allocated $75,000 to support consulting services for the mayor’s office related to the distribution of emergency food supply.

  • In our latest round of funding, we allocated $2.8 million to Met Council and other agencies serving hungry New Yorkers, including funds to support the home delivery of food packages to Holocaust survivors.

Cash Assistance

  • Urgent Funds for Low-Income New Yorkers: Many immigrants, restaurant employees, and gig workers have lost jobs and have no way of making ends meet. UJA was awarded $2 million through the New York Community Trust, which our partners on the ground are distributing in emergency cash grants to low-income New Yorkers in need.

  • Urgent Funds for Low-Income CUNY Hillel Students: CUNY students are often the first in their families to attend college, and most hold jobs to pay for their education. Many are now without their part-time jobs, leaving them with no source of income for food, rent, and tuition. We’ve allocated $430,000 in emergency cash support for low-income CUNY Hillel students.

  • Urgent Funds for Low-Income Single Parents: The current situation is having an outsized impact on those single parents who are poor or near-poor. They need help to meet basic expenses for food, medical care, and rent. We’ve allocated $330,000 to six JCCs, longtime participants in our Single Parent Initiative, to provide emergency support for low-income single parents.

Synagogue Funds for the Vulnerable
Rabbis are fielding more and more requests from congregants in financial distress. We’ve allocating $600,000 to four local rabbinic associations, which rabbis can distribute to the most vulnerable members of their congregational communities.

Dignified Burial
Hebrew Free Burial Association, a UJA partner, is dedicated to ensuring that every Jew, regardless of financial means or religious affiliation, can receive a dignified, traditional funeral and burial. We’ve allocated $250,000 to ensure dignified burials — the ultimate final kindness.

Holocaust Survivors
Advanced age and health issues put survivors at increased risk, and their traumatic history has made living in isolation more difficult. We’ve allocated approximately $1.2 million to meet the needs of survivors in New York and Israel. Funds will support emergency cash for rent, medicine, and other basic needs; food and meal delivery; personal protective equipment and transportation for home healthcare workers; telephone emergency response system units so they can get immediate help if needed; and technology to connect to virtual programming, helping to alleviate isolation.

Domestic Violence Survivors
With a reported surge in domestic violence related to the lockdown and shelters filled to capacity, we provided $30,000 in emergency funding for hotel rooms and similar accommodations for people fleeing unsafe situations. Additional funds are helping address the needs of the Orthodox community, particularly girls and women have fallen victim to commercial sexual exploitation or are at high risk of victimization. Grants have also been given to support food vouchers for survivors of domestic violence.

Jewish Day School Scholarships
We’ve created a new $2 million scholarship fund for families facing significant financial need as a result of Covid-19. Any scholarship dollars allocated through this program will be matched one-to-one by the schools applying on behalf of students in need.

Small Business Interest-Free Loans
We’ve allocated $1 million to our partner the Hebrew Free Loan Society to support its loan program, which is playing an essential role in helping keep small businesses afloat through this crisis.

Passover Meals

  • Passover Food for the Most Vulnerable: Right before this crisis hit, Met Council was gearing up to distribute Passover essentials to 181,000 people. Demand rose enormously because of the crisis, and so we allocated an additional $750,000 to Met Council for emergency Passover food distribution.

  • Passover Meals-to-Go: Passover was especially difficult for those who are isolated without families, those who would have normally relied on free or subsidized communal seders, and those are newly financially vulnerable. Many of these people wouldn’t qualify for government-funded food programs and were unlikely to take advantage of a food pantry. We allocated $250,000 to support free and subsidized pre-made seders. With these funds, we delivered 8,500 Passover meals and seder kits to 4,000 needy families throughout our community.

Follow news coverage of UJA’s work here.

Please continue to check in. We will keep this page updated as information becomes available.


As New York opens back up, your gift will enable UJA to continue to stand on the front lines of the Covid-19 crisis and help get our community back on its feet. Help us serve those who are counting on us most right now.