With summer wrapping up, New York schools starting to reopen, and Rosh Hashanah nearing, we’re on the cusp of new beginnings. What these new beginnings look like this year is very different than anything we’ve seen before.

Given the current environment, we’re prioritizing our network’s human service response to the critical, ongoing need for food, workforce development, and mental health support. Another more time-constrained priority is helping Jewish day schools cover new costs associated with safely reopening their buildings for in-person learning.

To address both these issues, UJA’s Board of Directors voted at a special meeting last Friday to approve an additional $6.7 million in funding from our endowment, bringing UJA’s additive Covid allocation to over $52 million. This is on top of the approximately $160 million we already budgeted this year to help our nonprofit network serve our community in these challenging times. 

1) Health and Human Services 
An initiative conceived long before the pandemic began will anchor our Covid human service response.

Based on extensive research and experience, we concluded a few years ago that the most effective way to combat persistent poverty in the Jewish community was to create large one-stop social service Hubs in the areas of densest Jewish poverty. These Hubs would offer job training, case management, benefits enrollment, financial and legal counseling, food, emotional support, emergency cash assistance, and more — all under one roof, serving Jews and non Jews alike.

We began construction of the first Hub in Queens in summer 2019. Although delayed for a time by the pandemic, the Queens Hub is scheduled to open in early October, in partnership with the Central Queens Y (Commonpoint Queens).

Given the current crisis, we’re now allocating $4.6 million to create six new Hub satellite locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, and Westchester — which will function as a coordinated network of services stretching across our entire community. We are also increasing mental health support for members of the Jewish day school and synagogue community.

In all, our Covid human service response is expected to benefit approximately 225,000 people.

2) Jewish Day Schools 
Prepping for school this year isn’t just about buying new backpacks or updating the curriculum. For parents, it’s transitioning children to a new normal, with “hybrid models” and “pods.” For schools, it’s complying with rigorous health and safety regulations so they can open their doors and teach, while keeping their faculty and students healthy.

Many Jewish day schools in New York operate with limited resources in the best of times. They’re now experiencing an increase in requests for tuition assistance. They also have significant unbudgeted costs related to opening, including upgraded ventilation, replacing furniture to conform with social distancing rules, purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE), procuring technology for remote learning, and hiring additional staff to implement safety and health regulations.

An investment in day schools is an investment in our Jewish future. Therefore, with support from The Paul E. Singer Foundation, UJA is providing $2.1 million to offset start-up and ongoing school reopening costs at 47 New York day schools, serving 34,000 students. This is in addition to an earlier round of funding in which we allocated $2 million to support scholarship assistance for families impacted by Covid.

3) PPE 
We’re also designating $2.5 million from our existing Covid emergency loan fund to help UJA partners cover the cost of PPE necessary to ensure safe and healthy service delivery.

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In the not-too-distant future, I expect children will be studying these extraordinary times — many in the very schools that we’re helping now — and looking back at how society responded to a crisis that tested us as never before. It’s unlikely UJA will be called out in their textbooks, but I do know that what we’re making possible today will have an impact that will reverberate across generations.

Shabbat shalom and enjoy the holiday weekend.