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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Additional Support for Jewish Community Centers
Many of the 22 Jewish community centers across our network have been financially distressed by the pandemic. To support these invaluable pillars of Jewish life, we’re building on earlier rounds of emergency funding with an additional $3.1 million in grants. These funds will be used to offer general operating support, provide matching dollars to boost JCCs’ fundraising efforts, and help purchase PPE. In addition, we’re offering $5 million in interest-free loans to JCCs awaiting government reimbursement related to unemployment insurance costs. In total, we’re allocating an additional $8.1 million in grants and loans to JCCs.
Earlier Emergency Covid-Relief Funding
Support for Human Service Partners
Support for Jewish Communal Organizations
Personal Protective Equipment
Jewish Day Schools
As day schools open their doors to in-person learning or a combination of in-person and remote learning, there are significant costs related to government health and safety guidelines. Previously, we allocated $2 million for scholarships for families experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic. We’ve now allocated an additional $2.1 million to offset start-up and ongoing school reopening costs at nearly 50 NY day schools and yeshivot that serve 35,000 students.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
We designated $2.5 million in our Covid emergency loan fund to help UJA partners cover the cost of PPE necessary to ensure safe and healthy service delivery. UJA partners will have access to a PPE buying cooperative organized by Jewish Federations of North America. We’re partnering with the Afya Foundation to support warehousing and distribution. And we’re creating a loan program for the purchase of PPE for those nonprofit partners that qualify for government reimbursement.
We allocated $111,000 to engage Fiscal Management Associates, to offer scenario planning and financial modeling support to NY synagogues and day schools dealing with the financial fallout of the pandemic.
Vaccine Access and Education
We’re helping vulnerable New Yorkers secure appointments, arranging transportation to vaccine sites, and offering vaccine education to those who are hesitant, so they can make informed decisions. We allocated $590,000 to 94 grassroots community organizations in under-resourced areas to support vaccine access and education. Learn more.
Capacity Building for Nonprofits
UJA is joining the New York Community Trust and Robin Hood to fund a new half-million dollar effort to provide consulting services for hundreds of nonprofits across New York that are struggling because of Covid-19. Learn more.
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.
Helping the Workers Who Feed New York: We granted $100,000 to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, with whom we’ve long partnered on interfaith initiatives, to support a cash assistance fund for workers in food-related industries, including agricultural and packing workers. Many of these workers were not eligible for federal stimulus checks.
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.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, UJA allocated nearly $1 million in emergency funding, in addition to the tens of millions we give to Israeli partners as part of regular allocations. Now as the crisis continues and ongoing needs increase dramatically, UJA is providing an additional $3.5 million from our endowment.
Funds are being used to combat food insecurity, help the new poor and struggling small businesses, provide services for at-risk children and teens, strengthen leadership and volunteer networks, and support technological innovations to help people in various sectors work together in answer to Covid-related challenges.
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's and Senator 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 enhancing charitable giving provisions, 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 service 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 advocating alongside The Jewish Education Project and Teach NYS, New York City began offering kosher “grab and go” daily meals at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, which continues through the current school year.
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 residents.
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.
We’ve been advocating for our nonprofit partner agencies to become approved vaccination sites, enhancing access for the elderly and other less mobile New Yorkers who can’t travel to mass sites. We’ve pushed for broader access to information, which has resulted in key forms getting translated into Yiddish and Russian for the Haredi community and Jewish Russian-speakers. We pressed and secured expanded eligibility for more front-line workers. And we’ve helped secure access to medical treatments like monoclonal antibodies for people with Covid. Learn more.
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.
Michael was grieving the loss of his beloved wife of 20 years. He found the support he needed at the Jewish Board. His care coordinator offered words that became a touchstone he relies on to this day. “She told me, that grieving doesn’t have a time limit and I can grieve as long as I need to and be strong for my kids,” says Michael. Read more.
When Ana lost her job as a lunch helper in a public school and an afternoon babysitter because of the pandemic, she worried for the future. Commonpoint Queens helped Ana get free training that led to a new job as a home health aide. “I’m feeling much more confident about the future now,” Ana says. Read more.
Alexandra, a senior at The Leffell School in Westchester, a coeducational Jewish day school, is glad to attend classes in person again. A UJA grant to 47 Jewish day schools across the New York region, serving 34,000 students, made it possible. “There’s something special about being in a physical classroom again after being virtual for so long,” Alexandra says. Read more.
Parents worry what will happen to their children if either parent gets sick. Now compound that worry by a pandemic. Taylor, a young adult who has Asperger’s, and his mom Darnell found critical support during the pandemic when Darnell’s husband contracted Covid-19. The Jack and Shirley Center for Special Needs at Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan made a real difference for the family. “The care and concern for participants at Adaptations goes beyond offering a Zoom chat or activity. People really care.” Read more.
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.
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.
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.
Here you can read more stories about how our nonprofit partners are making a difference during the pandemic.
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.