I hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy.
While the National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty is continuing to move full speed ahead, this will be the last affinity group newsletter coming from me. As you may have already heard, I accepted a position as inaugural Executive Director at Micah Philanthropies and will be leaving my role at Jewish Funders Network in March. JFN will be announcing my replacement shortly, and I am confident that I am leaving you in good hands. I will remain involved as a member of JFN and look forward to continuing to work and learn together.
Managing the National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my work here at JFN. It has been an honor to interact with all of you — the members of this group are uniquely smart, dedicated, and compassionate, and I have learned a tremendous amount about Jewish poverty and some of the most promising work being done in this field. This group has played a critical role in the Jewish community’s response to both the public health and economic challenges caused by Covid, and I look forward to watching its future accomplishments.
In this newsletter, you’ll find information about our Success Factors webinar series — which will be resuming in April — and learn about a promising collaborative model for improving affordable housing, which is being piloted in Rochester, N.Y.
Please continue to share your news about bright spots like the one in Rochester, as well as feedback on how the affinity group can support your work.
Deena K. Fuchs
Executive Vice President
Jewish Funders Network
The affinity group’s latest webinar series, "Key Success Factors in Addressing Jewish Poverty" highlights specific case studies and bright spots from throughout North America, with a particular focus on meeting the enormous challenges posed by the Covid pandemic and its economic effects. Each session is on a Thursday at 12 noon ET and is moderated by Susan Wolf Ditkoff, Senior Advisor at the Bridgespan Group.
The first session addressed best practices for addressing Jewish poverty in small communities, and the second explored the key role advocacy plays in addressing poverty. Earlier this month, Idit Klein, President and CEO of Keshet; Yavilah McCoy, CEO and Executive Director of DIMENSIONS; and Lani Santo, CEO of Footsteps, spoke about the importance of engaging people with lived experiences and offered suggestions for how Jewish organizations can do this more effectively. You can watch the whole series here — new sessions will be added in the future.
Future sessions will explore such issues as measurement and evaluation, awareness building, virtual program delivery, and convening for impact. Stay tuned for details about dates and speakers.
In Rochester, Collaborating on Affordable Housing
Photo Courtesy of Jewish Family Service of Rochester
It’s widely known that the United States is facing a severe shortage of affordable housing. However, it’s not just that we need more affordable housing: We also need better affordable housing, places where residents feel a sense of belonging and can get support as they confront the many challenges of living in or near poverty.
Jewish Family Service of Rochester (JFS) recently formed a unique and innovative partnership to strengthen the community and provide holistic support for residents of Rochester Highlands, a 500-unit complex where many of its clients live. It brought together the complex’s owner (Alliant Strategic Investments), CAPREIT Management, The Konar Foundation, and the HAPI (Healthy Apartment Property Initiatives) Foundation for a pilot project that could be a model for communities throughout the United States.
The project, which incorporates elements of Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), as well as programmatic ideas from HAPI Foundation efforts in several states, launched in the summer of 2019, offering a range of services on-site, including mental health counseling services, a food pantry, a free clothing “closet” and school supply store, case management for seniors, and transportation services.
Each partner in the project has contributed something different. The HAPI Foundation, whose mission is to promote health and wellness to residents living in affordable housing communities, has provided funding for a monthly newsletter to keep residents informed of community events and activities, materials for the site’s community garden, exercise, and nutrition workshops, pedometers and t-shirts for the walking groups, and incentives, such as gift cards to local merchants, to help build resident participation. The owners of the complex, Alliant Strategic Investments made several capital improvements to support the holistic programming and helped fund event gatherings. CAPREIT Management, an experienced provider of management services for over 10,000 affordable housing units across the country, has gone out of its way to help implement and troubleshoot programs.
The residents are also important partners: JFS has engaged and empowered them by surveying them about the type of programming they wanted and inviting them to serve on a council that guides the programming delivered at the complex. Although much of the programming moved online during COVID, resident feedback has been very positive, with many reporting that they feel an increased sense of community and feel like their needs and concerns are being addressed. One resident recently said after a Shabbat program, “I can’t remember the last time I felt like I was home. Maybe it was when I was 11. I am 64. Tonight, this, this makes me feel like I am home.”
Your one-stop-shop for all Affinity Group videos, briefing papers, newsletters, and other materials.
Since March, we've held eight briefings on how Covid-19 is impacting Jews living in poverty and the organizations that serve them. We have been hearing the needs from the service providers on the ground supporting our front lines, sharing best practices and information, and strategizing on ways to respond collectively. Each webinar features key leaders and focuses on particular needs, aligned to our working groups. The entire series is available in this playlist on JFN’s YouTube channel. We’ve also created a second playlist, that includes Affinity Group videos that aren’t part of the Covid briefing series, such as the FedLab videos and videos from our new "Success Factors" series.
You can find our videos, as well as curated articles, updates on needs in the field and donor responses, as well as other key resources on the Resource Hub and the Human Services North America Needs & Responses sections of JFN’s Covid-19 Response site. Please email Julie Wiener if you have material to share or other feedback.
Help Us Get the Word Out
Public relations and communications can seem like a luxury for human service groups at times like these. However, to ensure that we secure much-needed resources, it is vitally important that all of us keep getting the word out about our work. If your organization has marketing and communications staff, please put them in touch with JFN's communications director, Julie Wiener, to coordinate on media strategy. And don’t forget to email us your news, especially “bright spots” so we can feature them in this newsletter and elsewhere.
—From the Field—
How Economists See Biden’s $15 Wage Plan (Associated Press, February 17)
The Hidden Holes in America’s Social Safety Net (Vox, February 17)
A Survival Center Tries to Survive the Pandemic (New Yorker, February 16)
Will Biden’s Stimulus Plan Help Reduce Child Poverty in the US? (Aljazeera, February 9)
How Covid Accelerated a Fight Against Food Deserts (New York Magazine, February 9)
For Low-Income Workers, a Chance to Learn New Skills Without Paying a Dime Upfront (Boston Globe, February 8)
As the Biden Administration Proposes Additional Pandemic Relief, Nonprofit Workers See a Country Facing a Growing Crisis (New York Times, January 24)
Giving People Money Turns Out to Be an Incredibly Effective Tool in Ending Homelessness (Fast Company, January 13)
The Jewish Free Loan Movement: Unpacking a Jewish Communal Treasure (eJewish Philanthropy, January 12)
Founded in 2019 and coordinated by Jewish Funders Network and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, 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.