The ambulance sirens have become somewhat less frequent, reinforcing reports that New York has begun to “flatten the curve.” Yet it’s also clear that the medical crisis is far from over, and that the collateral economic damage from Covid-19 will only continue to grow.

Those enduring the worst of it remain the elderly and poor, now joined by the “newly vulnerable,” people who have lost jobs or suffered severe business reversals because of the shutdown.

On March 20, UJA announced initial emergency funding of more than $23 million in grants and interest-free loans, focused on food and other essential human services provided by our nonprofit partners. We followed up with a second round of emergency funding on March 30, allocating approximately $11 million in grants and interest-free loans aimed at helping sustain our 22 Jewish community centers, providing emergency cash assistance to low-income populations, and ensuring that all Jewish victims of the virus be given a dignified burial.

This past Tuesday, April 14, UJA’s Board of Directors approved nearly $9 million in new grants in a third stage of emergency funding. Our focus was on providing additional ways to ease the burden for the vulnerable and newly vulnerable, and extending critical support to Jewish summer camps, which remain important gateways to Jewish life for young people and families.

This latest round of funding will be used as follows:

1) Day School Scholarships: We’re creating a new $2 million scholarship fund for families facing significant financial need as a result of Covid-19.

2) Synagogue Funds for the Vulnerable: Rabbis are fielding more and more requests for assistance from congregants. We’re allocating $600,000 to four local rabbinic associations, which they can distribute to the most vulnerable members of their congregational communities.

3) 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’re allocating 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.

Additional funding

Israel: To help Israel through this crisis, two weeks ago we allocated over $1 million in emergency funds to support counseling for caregivers, loan funds for small businesses and nonprofits, and networks coordinating leaders and volunteers. You can read more here.

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.

To date, UJA has allocated approximately $44 million to help respond to the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

When we talk big numbers, it can be hard to grasp the human side of the story. But it’s very real and very moving. As one example, right before Passover, I was privileged to speak with a 97-year-old woman, a recipient of one of the 8,500 Passover meals and seder kits we’d delivered all across New York, Long Island, and Westchester.

The woman had called UJA to contribute $50 (on top of her annual $180 gift), in appreciation for the Passover delivery. Touched by her gift, I called to thank her. She told me that for the first time in her life, she was all alone on Passover and thought she wouldn’t be able to have a seder. When she opened the package she burst into tears, saying that in her more than nine decades of life, she’d rarely felt a greater sense of gratitude.

Multiply this reaction by 8,500. And then add in the impact of every protective mask, every home delivered meal, and every emergency cash grant.

It all adds up to a story of a community that finds strength and resilience in one another, a story of a people showing the best of themselves in the worst of times — and for as long as this crisis continues.  And hopefully, it’s that story we’ll be telling with pride for years to come.

Shabbat shalom