As the coronavirus crisis has unfolded, UJA and our network of nonprofits have been responding to drastically mounting and evolving needs. We’ve allocated more than $46 million to date to meet needs across the New York region and Israel. Our initial focus was on making sure the most vulnerable got the indispensable support they desperately need. We're also helping sustain the human service agencies and Jewish institutions that are the heart and soul of our community.
Our impact includes:
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.
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.
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 from new clients, as well as from food pantry sites that have been forced to close. Met Council is being 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. We’ve allocated $1 million to Met Council to significantly expand its capacity to serve the community.
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. Tragically, the agency expects a 20 – 30 percent increase in burials in the next few months. We’ve allocated $250,000 to ensure dignified burials — the ultimate final kindness.
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 $570,000 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 cab fare for home healthcare workers (to avoid public transportation); telephone emergency response system units so they can get immediate help if needed; and virtual programming to give purpose to their days.
Domestic Violence Victims
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.
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.
Support for Human Service Partners
Support for Jewish Communal Organizations
Personal Protective Equipment
Convening Our Network
We’re continuing to bring our nonprofit partners together (virtually) to share important information through webinars for professionals from day schools, synagogues, and health human services agencies. Webinar information and some recaps can be found here.
In our phase one needs assessment, we heard that our nonprofit partners needed legal guidance in understanding new COVID-19 legislation around paid sick leave, furloughs, tenant contracts, liability, and other employment issues. To address these concerns, UJA has secured the law firm of Paul, Weiss to provide ongoing pro-bono support to our agencies to help them navigate complex federal, state, and municipal legislation on these matters.
Helping Our Neighbors
Dates for Ramadan: Just as matzah is the food Jews eat over the eight days of Passover, dates are the food Muslims traditionally use to break their daily fast during the month of Ramadan. When a Muslim community group, allied with UJA, told us their food pantries were being overwhelmed and they were unable to source dates, we stepped up. We gave a grant to our partner Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and helped procure 2,000 pounds of dates for our Muslim friends.
Testing for At-Risk Communities: It’s become apparent that lower-income communities of color are being the hardest hit by the virus. To support our fellow New Yorkers, many of whom are essential workers, we’ve provided a grant to Brightpoint Health to offer free pop-up Covid-19 testing for a limited time at locations in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Meals for Families in Quarantine
In the very early days of the crisis, we delivered nearly 1,000 kosher Shabbat meals to families in quarantine in Westchester. Read about the experience of a day school principal who helped connect families to UJA.
Reaching Out to College Students
Knowing that food insecurity is an issue for students on our own city campuses, we’re working through Hillel to make sure that all CUNY and SUNY students are aware of food pantries so they can access food while campuses are closed.
Beyond the social services, our work connecting families to Jewish life continues. With schools closed and community programs canceled, parents find themselves with children in need of activities and programming. We’re there for them, too. We’ve convened PJ Library, the Foundation for Jewish Camp, and the Jewish Education Project to create a collection of high-quality Jewish activities and content that families can engage in together at home. Check them out here.
Additional Jewish content and resources can be found here.
Israel is also dealing with massive challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic. To help Israelis through the crisis, UJA is allocating over $1 million in emergency funding to be used in the following ways:
1) Caring for the Caregivers: Our funding will support the Israel Trauma Coalition’s expanded efforts to provide psychosocial support for hospital teams, homecare workers, and more.
2) Leadership Command Center: MAOZ is a network of 600 leaders and professionals representing the full diversity of Israeli society. Our funding will support a command center, bringing the network together virtually to coordinate solutions to major challenges. For example, MAOZ has worked on remote learning for Israel’s children, better communication about the virus to the Haredi community, and finding quarantine solutions for the Bedouin in the Negev. You can learn more about MAOZ's work here.
3) Coordinating Volunteers: The Israel Association of Community Centers is managing 30,000 volunteers serving diverse communities, including Haredi, Arab citizens, Ethiopian Israelis, and Russian speakers. They are especially active in lower socioeconomic locations. We’re supporting a hotline that connects vulnerable people — mostly the elderly, people with disabilities, and people who live alone — with a volunteer in their area. Volunteers can offer assistance, including purchasing food or medicine, and make connections to helpful resources.
4) Loan Funds for Small Businesses: We’re supporting interest-free loan funds operated by OGEN, a nonprofit social lending enterprise, and the Jewish Agency for Israel for small businesses that are dealing with the economic ramifications of the crisis.
5) Loan Fund for Nonprofits: We’re also supporting a low-interest loan fund through OGEN and the Jewish Agency for nonprofits that need cash and have an expected revenue stream as collateral.
Find out more about how our partners in Israel are addressing coronavirus challenges.
Our ongoing support for partners on the ground in the former Soviet Union has helped provide critical care to elderly Jews and families in need in the former Soviet Union:
Since the earliest days of the crisis, UJA’s government relations team has been advocating on behalf of network agencies providing essential services.
We continue to engage in direct advocacy with Senator Schumer and Gillibrand’s offices, as well as the rest of the New York congressional delegation to ensure that federal relief legislation includes designated funding for the nonprofit sector. We are continuing to advocate for allowing nonprofits larger than 500 employees to qualify for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, substantive state and local aid that is regionally adjusted, and hazard pay for front line workers. As part of our advocacy efforts, we developed two online petitions that gathered more than 5,800 signatures.
Since the CARES Act passed, we’ve held a series of webinars for hundreds of nonprofit, synagogue, and day school professionals on the implications of the Payment Protection Loans program and how to navigate the very complicated application process so they don’t lose out on available support.
We’ve been in regular communication with the governor’s office to gain clarity on Covid-19 response and to advocate for support to human services nonprofits. This includes program guidance for network partners, advocating for supplies, fiscal support for agencies, and access to kosher food for low-income populations.
Working independently and in coalition with umbrella organizations and interfaith partners, we’ve been in regular communication with City Hall to identify large-scale issues in the human services sector related to Covid-19.
We've also been actively involved in discussions around access to food, both kosher and for vulnerable seniors. After weeks of advocacy alongside The Jewish Education Project and Teach NYS, New York City is now offering kosher "grab and go" daily meals.
With city revenue down, we’re also fighting to make sure that any budget cuts are not taken on the backs of New York’s most vulnerable resident.
We’ve been engaged in advocacy with NYC Department of Education to support nonpublic school students with access to kosher food and remote technology devices.
With UJA's support, our nonprofit partners are on the front lines helping people cope with the crisis. Here's a look into the stories of those being helped.
Emergency Relief Makes Vital Difference
Many single-parent families were just getting by before the pandemic. Now it’s even harder. The Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House is committed to making sure no family struggles alone. Read more.
A single mom shares her many worries during the Covid-19 crisis, and how financial aid she received from the Washington Heights Y arrived just at the right time. Read more.
Mosholu Montefiore Community Center in the Bronx is a lifeline to many individuals and families who are immigrants and undocumented immigrants. The center’s caring support is needed now more than ever. Read more.
Many people on the Lower East Side who are low-income and often tip-based workers now need assistance during the overwhelming circumstances in the current crisis. Educational Alliance is there to help. Read more.
Protecting Workers on the Front Lines
Drivers at JASA continue to deliver meals to homebound elderly in Queens and Brooklyn. To help keep everyone safe, UJA has stepped up to fund and secure hard-to-come by personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks and gloves. Read more.
Reaching Out to Holocaust Survivors
Minna, 97, is a Holocaust survivor who used to enjoy a daily hot meal for lunch and her Shabbat group at the Washington Heights Y. With the coronavirus outbreak causing the Washington Heights Y to temporarily close its doors, the staff checks in with Minna by phone and makes sure she continues to receive a hot kosher mail daily, thanks to volunteers. “Hard times can bring out the kindness in people,” Minna says. Read more.
Rae, 97, is an active participant in Chaverim and the L’Chaim Group, two weekly programs for Holocaust survivors at the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC in Cedarhurst. With her weekly programs closed because of the coronavirus, the Gural JCC staff is stepping in with phone calls to keep tabs on Rae’s emotional, physical, and social well-being. As Rae has said many times to staff, “We need to reach out to each other.” Read more.
The Selfhelp Virtual Senior Center online program started several years ago to help homebound seniors fight isolation by connecting with each other and by taking online classes. It’s been a particular boon now in the stressful days of the pandemic. As Nelya, a Holocaust survivor, says, “I’m grateful for these online classes. It helps distract me from the news.” Read more.
Offering Vital Assistance to Older Adults
Sarah, 75, lives alone and grapples with lupus. Now she’s showing symptoms of Covid-19. Westchester Jewish Community Services is making daily phone calls to Sarah and helping with referrals to local resources and medical facilities. For Passover, Sarah will receive one of the free, pre-made seder meals from UJA. UJA is providing 8,500 home-delivered seder meals to individuals and families in need in our area. “I’m so very grateful for all of this help,” Sarah says. Read more.
During the best of times, the elderly in our community can face risks to their safety because of exploitation, mental alertness, or other issues. In this challenging time of the coronavirus, JASA is making a critical difference for clients like Dorothy, in her late 80s with dementia and physical disabilities, whose son financially exploited her. Read more.
Providing Dignity in Death During the Pandemic
A brother, who has disabilities, burying his 37-year-old brother who also has disabilities. This is just one of the 128 burials the Hebrew Free Burial Association (HFBA), a UJA partner, has made possible in the last four weeks. To put that into perspective, over the same period last year, 30 burials occurred. “We’re overwhelmed. But we haven’t turned any cases away,” says Amy Koplow, HFBA executive director. Read more.
Keeping Connections for Adults With Autism
Elana, an adult who has autism, lived independently in her own apartment and for over 10 years attended the Long Island Friends Experience (LIFE) program at the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC. Now Elana has had to move into her parents' home and struggles with her loss of independence. With the help of the JCC, Elana's staying connected to her LIFE peers through virtual programs and learning to adjust to the new reality in our world today. Read more.
Providing Critical Support for People With Mental Health Issues
Valentina, who grapples with mental health issues, lived with her father until he died this February. Uncertain how she would pay the rent and other expenses, Valentina turned to Selfhelp and found critical assistance and emotional support through daily visits to their office. One month later the coronavirus outbreak led Selfhelp to close their doors and her visits stopped. Now Valentina receives daily phone calls from her case manager. These calls help ensure Valentina’s not struggling alone as she mourns her father and begins the transition to living her life without him. Read more.
Ensuring Jewish Families and the Elderly Can Celebrate Passover
Hinda and David live in Staten Island with their six children and get by on a meager income. Buying kosher for Passover food is a challenge. The Staten Island JCC was able to assist the family thanks to Met Council and UJA’s emergency aid. Now families like Hinda and David's are receiving the support they need to celebrate the holiday during this difficult time. Read more.
When seniors in the community faced having a seder alone this year because of the pandemic, some didn’t have their own seder plate in their home. Students at Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) decided to put their STEM skills into action. Using 3-D printing technology, they created 30 seder plates that were distributed to the elderly through the Gural JCC. As Benjamin Gross, a HAFTR director says, “The project allowed students to learn more about the coronavirus crisis and also help people in a time of need.” Read more.
Addressing Critical Needs in Israel
In Israel the leadership command center of MAOZ provides valuable connections to coordinate solutions for the pandemic’s pressing problems — and it's designed to reach the country’s diverse communities. MAOZ is one of the recipients of UJA’s $1 million emergency funding allocated to several partners to help Israel during this crisis. “Working together, we’re addressing our weaknesses quickly now,” says Dr. Assi Cicurel, a community doctor in the Negev. Read more.
Reinforcing Interfaith Goodwill
As communities across New York — both Jewish and otherwise — face newfound hardships, it's essential that we weather the storm together. To help our interfaith neighbors find solace in this time of struggle, and to honor the traditions of Ramadan, we've sent 2,000 pounds of dates to the Council of Peoples Organization (COPO), a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that supports low-income Muslim immigrant families. Read more.
We’re allocating funds to address challenges across the community, help sustain our institutions, and do all we can to make sure that the most vulnerable get the help they desperately need.
We’ve deployed these funds in phases, quickly and strategically, as we assess needs.
On March 19, UJA’s Board of Directors approved $23 million in emergency funding, and an additional grant to a multi-partner New York Covid-19 response fund. Funds are being used as follows:
We are grateful to the Jewish Communal Fund for their gift of $1M to enable direct service towards Covid-19 relief.
On March 30, UJA's Board of Directors voted to allocate nearly $11 million to help sustain Jewish community centers, assist low-income populations, and — in what is perhaps our most sacred responsibility — ensure that no Jewish casualty of the virus will be denied a dignified burial. This funding is being distributed to meet the following critical needs.
On April 14, UJA’s Board of Directors approved nearly $9 million in new grants in a third stage of emergency funding. Our focus is to provide additional ways to ease the burden for the vulnerable and newly vulnerable, and to extend critical support to Jewish summer camps, which remain important gateways to Jewish life for young people and families. This funding will be used as follows:
1) Synagogue Funds for the Vulnerable: Rabbis are fielding more and more requests for assistance from congregants. We’ve allocated $600,000 to four local rabbinic associations, which rabbis can distribute to the most vulnerable members of their congregational communities.
2) Jewish Summer Camps: While there are still a few weeks until we’ll have final decisions about whether, and to what degree, this summer’s camp season can proceed, it’s evident camps will face enormous budget shortfalls. We’ve allocated up to $6 million to support residential and day camps so they can continue to create life-changing Jewish camping experiences for generations to come.
3) 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.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): We granted an additional $300,000 to the Afya Foundation to secure a month’s supply of gloves and masks for our nonprofit partner agencies. We also granted $50,000 to Hatzalah to support purchasing PPE for their more than 1,000 volunteers and 100 ambulance crews.
Helpful resources for individuals and nonprofits can be found here.
Follow news coverage of UJA’s work here.
Please continue to check in. We will keep this page updated as information becomes available.
UJA-FEDERATION'S $2 MILLION MATCHING FUND
Be part of UJA’s $2 MILLION MATCHING FUND, thanks to a $1 million grant from Jane and Daniel Och, and an additional $1 million grant from an anonymous couple.
Every gift up to $5,000 to support UJA’s work during these critical days will be matched dollar for dollar, up to two million dollars.