January 2021 Newsletter


Dear Friend,

I was going to open this letter by wishing you a Happy New Year, but already 2021 is off to a tumultuous start! Let’s hope the coming year brings some much-needed calm and an end to the Covid pandemic and the suffering it has wrought.

This year, I am looking forward to working with all of you to make significant strides in our shared goal of serving vulnerable populations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and to ending Jewish poverty.

I hope you will be able to join us for our new series on Success Factors in Addressing Jewish Poverty. If you missed the first session, in which two rabbis from small Jewish communities shared their experiences and what larger communities can learn from them, I encourage you to watch the video. In addition, I believe you will find the newest material from this fall’s FedLab session helpful in planning, coordinating, and implementing local efforts. I think you will also be inspired by this month’s Bright Spot feature focusing on a new centralized support line for Washington DC-area Jews, inspired by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston’s evidence-based Anti-Poverty Initiative.

As always, I encourage you to stay in touch. Let me know about the anti-poverty work you are engaged in and how the Affinity Group can be helpful. And don’t forget to share your bright spots!


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


—Upcoming Events—

Key Success Factors in Addressing Jewish Poverty

The affinity group’s new 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 will be on a Thursday at 12 noon ET and will be moderated by Susan Wolf Ditkoff, Senior Advisor at the Bridgespan Group.

The first session (watch the video here), held last week, addressed best practices for addressing Jewish poverty in small communities. On Thursday, January 21, we will learn about the role effective advocacy plays in addressing poverty and will reflect on how Democratic control of Congress and the presidency will change the climate for enacting reforms. Speakers include Elana Broitman, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at the Jewish Federations of North America, and Melanie Roth Gorelick, Senior Vice President at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. And on Thursday, February 4, we will focus on engaging people with lived experiences. Speakers include Idit Klein, President and CEO of Keshet; Lani Santo, CEO of Footsteps; and Yavilah McCoy, CEO and Executive Director of DIMENSIONS.

Future sessions will explore such issues as measurement and evaluation, awareness building, virtual program delivery, and convening for impact.

Save February 18 and March 4 for future sessions. More dates and details will be announced soon.


—Our Work—

Building Community Action Plans to Address Jewish Poverty

Our FedLab track this fall brought together 38 communities for an intensive afternoon of learning and planning around ending Jewish poverty. We’ve already shared videos from the workshop and the series of “Success Factors” presentations, and now we are pleased to share this summary of the day’s discussions. We hope you find the information here helpful and inspiring.

If you participated in the FedLab track, we welcome your feedback and look forward to learning more about your community’s ongoing anti-poverty work.


—Bright Spot—

DC's New Jewish Support Line Makes It Easier to Find Help

The Greater Washington, DC area Jewish community boasts an extensive network of social service agencies serving those in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia, but few people across the community knew how to access assistance from them according to a survey completed during Summer 2020. But in the past year, in a process begun by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and then accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jewish social service providers have focused on collaborating with one another, making it easier for people in need to find help during the pandemic and laying the groundwork for more accessible support into the future.

At the center of the change is 703-J-CARING: the Jewish Community Support Line. This central phone number is staffed by professionals from the Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA) who are trained to provide compassionate, personalized assistance and to refer people to a wide array of nonprofits, government agencies, and even synagogues where help is available. It’s part of a larger shift at the Federation, which is seeking both to use its unique role as a convener to further strengthen the Jewish community, and to develop a more integrated anti-poverty strategy, explains Elisa Deener-Agus, the Federation’s Chief of Staff.

The support line soft-launched over the summer, but marketed in earnest over the High Holidays, with special efforts to encourage rabbis and other local agencies, including JCCs and day schools, to share the phone number with their congregants, members, and families. So far, more than 200 people have called, and referrals have been made to over 40 organizations (Jewish and nonsectarian). Forty-eight people who received emergency grants from Federation’s emergency fund partners have been referred to the support line for ongoing assistance.

While it may change in the coming months, as the pandemic’s economic effects continue to be felt and moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions expire, so far, the majority of calls have been spurred not by COVID-related job losses but by preexisting challenges.

“That speaks to the fact that there was an underlying need before the pandemic and that we had to solve for systemic challenges across the community,” says Shari Merrill, the Federation’s Chief Impact Officer. “The variety of calls has also made it clear that the needs will continue to grow and evolve. Federation and our partners are committed to continuing this work long into the future to ensure we are poised to meet those changing concerns.”

To learn more about 703-J-CARING and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s anti-poverty efforts, email Linda Kraner at [email protected].


The Affinity Group Website

Your one-stop-shop for all Affinity Group videos, briefing papers, newsletters, and other materials.

The Affinity Group on YouTube

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.

JFN's Covid-19 Response Site

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.

—Special Request—

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—

Poverty Grows Despite Economic Recovery
(Pew Stateline, January 6)

2021 Will Be the Year of Guaranteed Income Experiments
(Bloomberg, January 4)

Failure to Support Those Slipping into Poverty Would Profoundly Damage the Entire Economy
(Dallas Morning News, January 3)

Universal Basic Income Fails to Get to the Root of Urban Poverty
(Foundation for Economic Education, December 29)

The Year Inequality Became Less Visible, and More Visible Than Ever
(New York Times, December 28)

As Needs of Newly Poor Surge, Emergency Aid Effort Underway for Frontline Jewish Agencies
(Jewish Telegraphic Agency, December 21)

Nearly 8 Million Americans Have Fallen into Poverty Since the Summer
(Washington Post, December 16)

How COVID Has Impacted Poverty in America
(Frontline, December 8)

The Coming War on the Hidden Algorithms that Trap People in Poverty
(Technology Review, December 4)

What Biden Means for Nonprofits Focused on Social Services
The Chronicle of Philanthropy, December 1


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

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.