National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty Newsletter: May 2020

MAY 2020 

Dear Friend,

I hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy. As the pandemic has wreaked havoc on our world, no one has been harder hit by its health and economic effects than the families and individuals already living in poverty. We are also aware that COVID-19 has increased those among us who are struggling, with more than 33 million Americans filing for unemployment since mid-March.

I am grateful, at least, that we entered this challenging time having already begun the hard and important work of coordinating our efforts to fight Jewish poverty. In this month’s newsletter, we report on the critical work affinity group members are doing to respond to Covid-19 and its ripple effects, ranging from unemployment to food insecurity to increased domestic violence. We also share news about an important webinar series that starts this Thursday, and a new JFN resource we hope you will find useful.

Let’s continue to stay in close contact in the coming months, as our work is more urgently needed than ever. And please continue to share your feedback and ideas.


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

—Save the Date—

A Series of Briefings on Poverty and the Impact of Covid-19

Over the coming months, the National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty will be hosting a series of webinars and virtual meetups (the first one, focused on food insecurity and housing, is this Thursday, May 14, from 1-2 p.m. Eastern) to discuss the many difficulties the coronavirus pandemic has created for Jews facing poverty and the agencies that serve them. We will hear the needs from the service providers on the ground supporting our front lines, share best practices and information, and strategize on ways to respond collectively.

Each webinar will feature key leaders and focus on particular needs, aligned to the affinity group’s sub-groups. The first one one Thursday, May 14 from 1-2pm ET will focus on food insecurity and housing. The following two webinars will be take place on Tuesday, May 26th from 12-1pm ET and Tuesday, June 9th from 12-1pm ET – please hold the dates. This Thursday’s session on food insecurity and housing will include JFN Board Member Jeffrey Schoenfeld, Jessica Chait, Managing Director of Food Programs at Met Council on Jewish Poverty, and Lisa Budlow, CEO of CHAI Baltimore. RSVP for this Thursday.

If you register for the webinar this Thursday, we will ensure you get reminders for the next briefings. And if you missed our March webinar on “Supporting Vulnerable Populations During Covid-19,” you can watch a recording of it here.

—Responding to Covid-19—

Affinity Group Members Respond to Covid-19

As the coronavirus disrupts the lives of our most vulnerable populations, dramatically increases unemployment and makes it more challenging to provide many of the direct in-person services, agencies and federations are stepping up to the plate to ease the situation. Just a few examples:

  • UJA-Federation of New York is investing more than $45 million in grants to expand food distribution, offer virtual programming for homebound seniors and Holocaust survivors, support the operational capacity of key human service agencies, and offer wide range of services for Jews in poverty in both Israel and New York;
  • Chicago’s Jewish United Fund created a $26 million coronavirus initiative to be used for emergency financial aid, including cash grants for housing, food, medical care and other essentials for individuals and families.
  • The Jewish Federation of San Diego County, Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego and Leichtag Foundation partnered to establish the San Diego Jewish Community COVID-19 Emergency Fund to support those who are most vulnerable and impacted in San Diego’s Jewish community. As of May 1, it had raised $2.1 million and deployed $537,000, with grants to organizations and rabbis working directly with those in need, as well as payroll assistance for local Jewish organizations.

Getting Much-Needed Personal Protective Equipment to Agencies

In April, the Jewish Federations of North America, JFN and the North American Volunteer Network (which includes alumni and members of the AEPI fraternity) teamed up to help procure much-needed equipment for Jewish nursing homes, hospices, home care and other social service providers. Just last week we delivered one million surgical masks, 500,000 gowns and 400,000 gloves to Jewish nursing homes and other social service providers.

Because all this equipment is far more costly now than usual, we’re raising money so that these agencies don’t have to cover the difference between the normal price (which they will pay) and the current one. You can support this project in a few ways:

  1. JFN is acting as a fiscal aggregator, so you can donate through us by emailing Deena Fuchs at [email protected].
  2. From now through the end of May, JFNA is running Pledge to Protect, a crowdfunding campaign with the goal of raising $3 million through 100,000 donations. Donate through Pledge to Protect.

Please feel free to share this with your networks.

Supporting Domestic Violence Victims

In addition to pushing more individuals into poverty and disproportionately hurting those already in poverty, Covid-19 has had another pernicious effect: increased rates of domestic violence. Domestic violence, exacerbated by victims being more isolated at home with their abuser and families' increasingly high stress levels, is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children.

Many service providers are stepping up to meet the increased need as a result of the pandemic. The Berkeley, Calif.-based Shalom Bayit, for example, is offering phone-based support groups and individual counseling, safety planning for victims while they are in lockdown, and is continuing to offer many of its other services with some modifications. The Met Council on Jewish Poverty, in New York, has expanded its family violence hotline (previously mostly during weekday office hours), with social workers now on call from 8 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays. Met Council leaders recently told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the number of new victims coming for help has doubled and that they expect to see an even bigger increase “when stay-at-home orders are lifted and victims are able to call without fear of their abusers finding out.”

Recommended Articles on This Topic:

Making the Case for Giving

The Network of Jewish Human Services Agencies, an Affinity Group member, has drafted a new document capturing the impact of COVID-19 on its member agencies and the communities they serve, and to elevate the  Network’s case for giving among the many “asks” that are out there. Much of the content of this document is the result of an analysis of a financial impact survey administered in March, as well as from anecdotal feedback which has come forth from a series of meetings we have convened with the agencies as the pandemic continued to evolve.

The hope is that agencies can adapt the document with their own data and local details, for fundraising use locally. Download it here.

New JFN Resource Available

JFN recently launched an easy-to-navigate website that is both a resource hub and a catalog describing the many needs created by the coronavirus pandemic and tracking the philanthropic responses. The Human Services in North America section contains extensive information and resources about services for Jews in poverty, including relevant articles, webinars, news and other materials. Make sure to check it regularly, and please let us know if you have information to add to it.

—In the News—

For Jews Hit Hard by the Pandemic, a New Worry — Not Having Enough Food (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 11)

Nonprofit Ensures NYC Holocaust Survivors Are Fed Amid Coronavirus (New York Post, May 10)

A Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Want to Empower FEMA to Meet America’s Growing Hunger Crisis (Washington Post, May 7) 

As Hunger Swells, Food Stamps Become a Partisan Flash Point (New York Times, May 6) 

Vulnerable Jewish Communities Are Suffering Through This Crisis. We Must Not Forget Them When It’s Over (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 5)

Food Banks Can’t Go On Like This (The Atlantic, May 5) 

A Gloomy Prediction on How Much Poverty Could Rise (New York Times, April 16) 

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.