This may be the most harrowing crisis our community has ever faced. But the burden is shared by every one of us — together. We’ve all been touched to hear accounts of the heroism of those working around the clock caring for the sick, those making sure the elderly and other at-risk groups get the help they can’t live without, and those stepping up to generously address pressing needs.
Last week, UJA authorized more than $23 million in emergency funding for social service agencies, and we’re hoping early next week to authorize initial funding for our Jewish communal institutions, including community centers. We know that this is still just the beginning, and that we’ll need to provide significant additional support as the challenges intensify across our community.
Our agencies have impressively pivoted to address emerging needs. Already many JCCs in our network have become designated childcare centers for some front-line workers. Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty is dramatically increasing its food delivery. This week, the agency is in the middle of its Passover distribution, which — with support from our emergency grant — will provide two million pounds of food to 129 sites serving more than 200,000 low-income New Yorkers. DOROT, Selfhelp Community Services, and the 92nd Street Y are among the agencies expanding their existing virtual connections to reach out to isolated seniors, including Holocaust survivors. And across our network there are home health aides, child welfare workers, disability providers, educators, senior center staff, food pantry workers and volunteers, mental health providers, and case managers who are among our community’s unsung champions.
Israel, also shut down by the pandemic, has not shut its doors. Our largest overseas partner, the Jewish Agency, welcomed 880 new olim since the crisis began, most recently 72 from Ethiopia. Nothing stands in the way of some dreams. And our partner JDC is working with the government to help facilitate regular food delivery to 60,000 homebound elderly.
It’s the inspiring work of our network of nonprofits, both local and global, that demonstrates the power of UJA-Federation, and what we make possible day in and day out — but particularly at moments of crisis like this.
In the almost six years that I’ve been writing these messages, I’ve tried to share as many of these stories as I can, hoping to give all of you a glimpse into our nonprofit partners on the ground and the people whose lives we’ve changed in ways large and small. Who, what, where, and why has always been the focus. What I much less frequently write about is the how.
The how, of course, is our annual campaign. It’s no secret that our annual campaign has built UJA — and UJA was built for this moment. Because of the annual campaign, we’ve been able to sustain and strengthen our community’s infrastructure — the interconnected agencies that run the gamut of social services and Jewish life programming — which is how we’re able to address challenges quickly and strategically.
Never has our annual campaign been more important than right now. And our inability to hold in-person fundraising events for the rest of our fiscal year, coupled with the softening of the market, will result in a dramatic shortfall in the dollars we need to sustain our unparalleled network of nonprofits at this critical time.
So for the first time in a Friday message, I’m not just sharing stories or updates — I’m asking everyone to contribute as generously as you can. If you have the capacity to give, this is the moment.
Yesterday was Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, when we celebrate Passover, and the coming of spring and a time of freedom. We recite a prayer for the new month in the morning service, which I’ve recited many times before, but it had different resonance for me yesterday. We ask God that the month ahead be one of blessings and say:
Vayihi rosh hachodesh hazeh sof v’ketz l’chol tzaroteinu, tchila v’rosh l’pidyon nafsheinu — May this beginning of the month mark the end of all our sorrows, and the beginning of redemption of the spirit.
My wish for us all is that we’ll see, in this month or the near future, the end of this pandemic and pain. And that with the coming of Passover and spring, we’ll have renewed health and calm in our community, and throughout the world.