Jewish Poverty Newsletter February 2020


Dear friend,

Thank you so much for your involvement in the Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty. To keep you up to date on our important work, I am delighted to share this inaugural edition of our monthly newsletter.

Below, you'll find details about a new initiative to get more and better data on Jewish poverty. You'll also find a link to the report generated from our meeting at FedLab. And we've highlighted a bright spot in the field: what Hunter College Hillel is doing to address food insecurity among Jewish students. Know of another bright spot or something else we should be aware of as we tackle Jewish poverty? Don't be shy — we want to hear from you!

We also want to hear what’s working in this affinity group and ways in which we can do better. As a peer network, we are all learning and growing. Your feedback — good and less good — is essential to the process. 

Deena K. Fuchs
Executive Vice President
Jewish Funders Network
[email protected]

—Save the Date—

Our next meeting will be held at the NJHSA’s Third Annual Conference – May 3-5, in Dallas. The affinity group will meet on Tuesday, May 5, at the conclusion of the conference. We will share more information on the agenda and program next month. 

—Highlighting Our Work—

Better Data Is on the Way

computer screen

The scarcity of accurate and aligned data on poverty and financial insecurity was one of many challenges identified at our inaugural meeting in Chicago last year. We’re pleased to announce that Jewish Federations of North America, in partnership with the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, is addressing this challenge head-on by offering financial incentives encouraging Federations to include poverty-related questions in their upcoming community demographic studies. JFNA will provide $50,0000 grants to 10 Jewish Federations that commit to including a standard set of questions related to poverty, as well as committing to a plan to utilize the data. The grants will also require questions on race and ethnicity, in collaboration with Jews of Color Field Building Initiative (JoC-FBI).

Having more consistent data on poverty and economic insecurity will enable us to be more effective at serving Jews in need and dramatically reducing Jewish poverty. The core sets of questions are available upon request from the JFNA research department, and details on how to apply for a grant will be released soon. For more information, please contact Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz at [email protected].

Report from FedLab

At JFNA’s FedLab Conference in November, we engaged in a series of dynamic learnings and discussions on key issues relevant to the Jewish human services agenda, with a particular focus on poverty, older adults, and people with disabilities. Check out the full “lab report” here.

—Bright Spots—

At Hunter Hillel, Addressing Food Insecurity 

The Jewish students at Hunter College, part of the City University of New York system, face a full plate of responsibilities: schoolwork, part-time jobs and family obligations, made harder by time spent commuting.

Add to that, a UJA-Federation of New York study last year found that more than half of Hunter’s Jewish students reported feeling food insecure.

Fortunately, there is always food available at Hunter College Hillel, where food accounts for over 67 percent of the program budget. “Our food budget reflects both the reality of the problem here in New York City and Hillel’s commitment to serving the needs of students,” explains Hunter Hillel’s executive director, Merav Fine Braun. “We seek to nourish students in both body and soul.”

Braun and her team keep the student lounge supplied with healthy snacks and encourage students to stop in throughout the school day. In addition, food is served at most Hillel activities, including classes and meetings. And when the organization hosts Shabbat meals, take-home containers are available so students can bring home any leftovers. Braun says she and her team have heard from many students that without Hillel, they would miss meals.

“Knowing we’re there for them makes a huge difference in lessening their stress and helping them stay committed to both their college classes and their Judaism,” Braun says. To learn more email Braun at [email protected].

—In the News—

Trump Budget Contains Nearly $300B in Safety-Net Cuts (NPR)

Unaffordable Rental Housing May Be 'New Normal' in United States (Reuters)

Cities Prepare for the Worst as Trump's Food Stamps Cuts Near (New York Times)

Stepping Around Human Misery (National Review)

Be sure to check out the collection of articles we published last year in partnership with eJewish Philanthropy. 

Founded in 2019, the National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty is a collaborative of funders, Jewish Federations, direct service providers, researchers, media outlets, and advocates dedicated to fighting poverty in the American Jewish community. Learn more here.