Newsletter July-August 2020

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. Sign up here.


Dear Friend,

I hope you are staying healthy and cool.

It’s been a busy summer as the Covid pandemic and its economic fallout continue to hurt our vulnerable populations. We’ve been working hard to foster communication among agencies and funders, and to share information about the needs and best practices.

I’m proud of the Affinity Group’s ongoing series of webinars, particularly the one earlier this month on Jews of color, highlights of which are shared below. We have more briefings coming up, and I encourage you to catch up on any you’ve missed by watching the videos, now available in several locations.

You will also want to learn about the Network of Jewish Human Services Agencies Poverty Challenge, which so far has helped three communities around the country develop more efficient and effective ways of serving Jews in need. In the “Bright Spot” section of this newsletter, we take a deep dive into one of those communities, Detroit, where three agencies are coming together to create a one-stop “shopping” experience for clients. In the next two newsletters, we’ll feature the other communities.

Please stay tuned in the coming weeks for information about a special Affinity Group virtual convening planned for early fall.

As always, I encourage you to stay in touch, share your “bright spots,” and let us know how we can be helpful.


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

—Save the Date—

Affinity Group Briefing #5 on Jewish Poverty During Covid-19 (Tuesday, July 21, 12-1 pm, ET)

In this briefing, we'll focus on the intersection of philanthropy and government Speakers are Louisa Chafee, Senior Vice President, External Relations and Public Policy, UJA- Federation of New York; Jerry Rubin, President and Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Vocational Service-Boston. Susan Ditkoff of The Bridgespan Group Boston will moderate. Learn more about the series in the article below, and watch earlier installments here.


An Intimate Conversation with Wes Moore (Monday, August 3, 1-2 pm, Eastern)

Join Jewish Funders Network for a conversation with Wes Moore, CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization based in New York City, and author of several best-selling books. In this event, Rachel Garbow Monroe, President and CEO of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation will talk to Moore about his new book “Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City,” Covid-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of color, and how funders can best support racial justice and anti-poverty work at this critical time.

Note: This event will not be recorded, so please be sure to join us live! 


Affinity Group Briefing #6 on Jewish Poverty During Covid-19 (Tuesday, August 4, 12-1 pm, ET)

Details and speakers TBA.

—Our Work—

How Covid-19 Is Impacting Jews of Color

Early in the Covid pandemic, Ilana Kaufman and other leaders at the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative began hearing reports that Jews of color, like all people of color in the U.S., were suffering disproportionately from the pandemic and its economic effects. But it was only when they began seeking partners to establish a relief fund that they discovered how poorly equipped national Jewish institutions were to serve this vulnerable population.

“As I started to call agencies and asked where we can set up money so there’s a central place where people could get help, I realized there was no central place,” Kaufman, the executive director of the initiative, explained in the National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty’s July 7 briefing. “Because federations are a disaggregated, loose network, it means that when one vulnerable group needs services, there is no central location to align that group’s need with the services.”

  • Read more highlights and watch webinar here.
  • Learn more about the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund here.


Our Briefing Series and Other Resources

The July 7 webinar on Jews of Color was the fourth in our ongoing series of briefings to discuss the many difficulties the coronavirus pandemic has created for Jews facing poverty and the agencies 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. You can watch all the briefings in a special playlist on JFN’s YouTube channel, JFN’s Facebook page, JFN’s Covid-19 Response site, and on the National Affinity Group for Jewish Poverty section of the JFN site; we will be adding future webinars to all four locations.

You can find more videos and other key resources on the Resource Hub and the Human Services North America Needs & Responses sections of the Covid-19 Response site. Please reach out to Julie Wiener, JFN’s communications director, if you have resources to share or other feedback.

Detroit, Columbus and Philadelphia Agencies Complete Intensive Incubation Program

Jewish Family Service of Columbus, OH; Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia; and a collaboration of Detroit-area agencies: Jewish Family Service of Detroit, JVS Human Services and Yad Ezra recently completed the Jewish Poverty Challenge Intensive Incubation Program, an initiative of the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies’ Center for Innovation & Research. The incubation program supports agencies in efforts to achieve increased impact and be innovative in addressing the complicated dynamics associated with Jewish poverty.

Start Co., a Memphis-based consulting firm supporting social innovation with nonprofits, municipalities and the corporate sector, guided the agencies through six-month entrepreneurship building process to move their new idea(s) forward or enhance an existing initiative.

In the Bright Spot feature below, you’ll learn more about the project in Detroit. The next two Affinity Group newsletters will spotlight the Philadelphia and Columbus projects. To learn more about the Jewish Poverty Challenge Intensive Incubation Program, email Reuben Rotman.


—Bright Spot—

In Detroit, a One-Stop "Shop" to Help Families in Poverty

Among the many challenges of living in poverty is the very act of seeking help: Just navigating the numerous agencies and government services can be confusing and time-consuming. That’s why three Detroit-area Jewish anti-poverty organizations – Jewish Family Service of Metro Detroit, JVS Human Services and Yad Ezra (a kosher food bank) -- are piloting a one-stop experience, in which Jewish families can get the help they need from one specially trained coach.

“Currently, you can get food assistance from Yad Ezra, financial coaching and employment services from JVS and case management from JFS, but you have to go from place to place and tell four different people what’s going on,” says Perry Ohren, CEO of JFS. “This is especially important in global pandemic times. The exhaustion, confusion and hurt that people have is lessened if they just have to talk to one person.”

When the pilot starts (the project is currently in fundraising mode, after several months of planning and fine-tuning with help from the Jewish Poverty Challenge Intensive Incubation Program, described in the above article) two coaches – Ohren jokingly refers to them as “ninjas” – will be “cross-trained” to work with 20 families each. “In their toolboxes they will have case management capability, finance coaching piece, the employment service piece and a box of food too,” he explains. In year two, the pilot will add three more coaches, serving an additional 100 families. And the hope is to continue scaling up after that.

The project can’t begin soon enough, because the coronavirus pandemic is expected to dramatically increase the number of families in need in the coming months.

“So far in Jewish Detroit, because of the federal stimulus package, people have been to a degree taken care of by government intervention, whether that means they got a stimulus check or better unemployment benefits than they would have,” Ohren says. “But after July, the amount of hurt out there is going to be astronomical, and we expect the people we serve will change a little. Not just people who are renting, but also people who have mortgages, people who were middle class or upper middle class but their employer went belly up.”

To learn more about this project, email Perry Ohren.


—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. Please help us amplify each other's work by sharing your organization’s Twitter and Facebook handles with us, and following our new Twitter list. Also, be sure that you follow Jewish Funders Network (@jfunders) and the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation (@hjweinbergfdn) on Twitter and Facebook. 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—

Amid a Deadly Virus and Crippled Economy, One Form of Aid Has Proved Reliable: Food Stamps (New York Times, July 19)

Backers Had High Hopes for Opportunity Zones. Research Shows They Aren’t Delivering (Inside Philanthropy, July 15)

How Bay Area Community Groups Mobilized Donors to Keep Vulnerable People Housed (Inside Philanthropy, July 9)

Jewish Nonprofits Launch Nationwide Volunteer Drive to Respond to Pandemic, Social-Justice Needs (Chronicle of Philanthropy, July 6)

Meet the Gleaners, Combing Farm Fields to Feed the Newly Hungry (New York Times, July 6)

With Gates in the Lead, Foundations Aim to Shift the Narrative on Poverty in the U.S. (Inside Philanthropy, June 23)

The Coronavirus Has Revealed the True Nature of Hunger in America (Chronicle of Philanthropy, June 19)

As US Lockdowns Lift, Evictions Loom for Poorest City Dwellers (Reuters, June 19)

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.