Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty November 2020 Newsletter


Dear Friend,

What a busy and crazy fall this has been! I hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy even as Covid cases surge.

I want to warmly welcome many new members of the affinity group, particularly those who connected with us last month through our FedLab workshop. It was heartening to see how many communities are coming together to address poverty, and the sheer amount of networking, information-sharing, and planning that happened in just a few hours was truly astounding! You can learn more about it in the article below and in the videos and other materials posted on the Affinity Group website.

In this newsletter, you’ll also learn about our newly published funder briefs – outlining key needs and funding opportunities in six areas. I hope you will share them widely. I’m also thrilled to share news of Affinity Group members UJA-Federation of New York and Commonpoint Queens’ The Hub, an impressive new one-stop facility that opened last month for New Yorkers of all backgrounds struggling with poverty. And this month’s Bright Spot highlights an innovative Fellows Program being launched by Affinity Group member JFCS of Greater Philadelphia.

Please stay in touch. I want to know what is going on in your community and how the Affinity Group can be helpful.


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

—Save the Date—

*TODAY! It's not too late to register!*

Exploring the Challenges & Opportunities of Affordable Housing 

(Tuesday, November 17, 1-2 pm ET)

Join the National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty’s housing workgroup for an update on the dialogue underway about affordable housing and information about an innovative model administered by Jewish Family Services of Rochester that is helping to support an affordable housing community there. In addition, Jewish Funders Network members Jane and Eddie Lorin will talk about their work developing and operating affordable housing communities and about the foundation they launched to ensure the quality of life for residents living in affordable housing communities. Presenters include Lisa Budlow of CHAI (Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc.) Baltimore; Jennie Schaff of Jewish Family Services of Rochester, and Eddie and Jane Lorin.


—Our Work—

Funder Briefing Papers Now Available

As devastating as the Covid pandemic has been, we are pleased that it has increased awareness about the many individuals, including Jews, living on the edge financially. With new funders interested in investing in programs addressing Jewish poverty, we want to make it as easy as possible for them to identify the key areas where they can be most helpful. That’s why we just published six funder briefs outlining the needs in key sectors and offering concrete suggestions for how donors can help.

The briefs, available for download here, summarize the needs and investment opportunities in addressing food insecurity, housing, jobs, older adults, mental health, and systems. We encourage you to share them and to incorporate them into any of your fundraising or public awareness efforts. You will also want to read and share this eJewish Philanthropy article about the need for funders to step up on Jewish poverty. If your organization has marketing and public relations staff, please encourage them to contact Julie Wiener ([email protected]), JFN’s director of communications, so we can work collaboratively to get the word out about this and other aspects of the Affinity Group’s work.

Almost 40 Poverty Action Plans Launched at FedLab

When the National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty began planning its FedLab track, “Building Community Action Plans to Address Poverty,” the goal was to train working groups from 10 communities. Instead, almost four times as many communities — from all over North America and from cities large and small – assembled anti-poverty working groups and signed up.

In Zoom sessions, leaders from the affinity group shared success factors, best practices, and other important information on addressing poverty. Then, in structured, facilitated discussions, working groups consisting of a variety of stakeholders from each of 38 communities mapped out their next steps. Each group discussed their local goals and benchmarks, examined their community’s strengths and weaknesses, explored which/if any “Success Factors” models and best practices would be most applicable to their community, and brainstormed about potential partners and allies to include in their work moving forward.

“This was an incredibly productive and collaborative conversation for our Colorado agencies, and we have very tangible outcomes to move forward with that we wouldn’t have otherwise,” Steven Baker, Senior Director of Philanthropy at JEWISHcolorado said afterward.

Watch the main video and nine "Success Factor" breakout sessions from this FedLab track here and download other resources from the session here. You will also want to watch our session from the JFNA’s General Assembly, a discussion about local strategies for addressing poverty. 

UJA-Federation of New York Opens Groundbreaking ‘Hub’

In October, UJA-Federation of New York, in partnership with Commonpoint Queens opened the Queens Hub, a new 9,600-square-foot social service center that will offer employment resources, social services, and access to food.

Open to all New Yorkers, the Hub is expected to serve 6,000 clients in its first year. An all-encompassing facility that provides a range of social services to help people stabilize their lives, the centerpiece of the Hub is a best-in-class workforce development program where potential employers will participate in trainings, increasing the likelihood of participants finding employment. The Hub also offers case management, mental health counseling, benefits screening and enrollment, emergency cash assistance, and access to the Commonpoint Queens Digital Food pantry.

Also, in response to Covid-19 and the overwhelming demand for social services, UJA allocated $4.6 million for six satellite Hub locations that will open their doors in November across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island, and Westchester. While the Queens Hub will be permanent to respond to perennial poverty, the satellite Hubs will serve as a shorter-term COVID recovery response. UJA is also working toward building a permanent Brooklyn Hub. For more information, email Alexandra Roth-Kahn.

—Bright Spot—

The Power of Peer Support

One of the linchpins of most addiction recovery programs is the “sponsor” – a recovered user whose lived experience helps them offer mentorship, inspiration, and emotional support. The “peer support” approach has become an increasingly common component of mental health treatment as well. JFCS of Philadelphia believes this approach also can help clients who are struggling to escape poverty – while also helping former clients get to the next step professionally.

JFCS of Greater Philadelphia’s Peer Fellows Program is one of three projects that recently completed the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies’ Jewish Poverty Challenge Intensive Incubation Program (learn about the other two here and here). After months of planning, including focus groups with clients, the project is ready to launch once funding is secured.

Under the program, the agency will select several former clients for year-long full-time paid peer fellowships. The peer fellows, who will serve Jewish clients between the ages of 18-64, will increase the number of client “touch points” – staff at JFCS who are available to help them. The hope is that they also will increase staff awareness of and sensitivity to clients’ experiences, while providing the validation and empathy many clients have told JFCS they need.

“We wanted to better meet clients where they are and add a layer of support, in which someone can be their cheerleader telling them to keep going, saying ‘I did it, I know it’s hard,’” explains Courtney Owen, JFCS’ Director of Individual and Family Services. “But we also knew the fellow would offer an important perspective to the client’s care manager and, by working with our team for a year, would gain job experience and training. The goal is to enhance our care services, but also help the fellow take the next step to a full-time career.”

Many clients “have lived in poverty a long time and feel like there’s no way out,” so “having a peer say, ‘I was able to take the next step,’” can be transformative in getting them to think beyond just surviving month to month, Owen notes.

To learn more about this project, watch this FedLab "Success Factor" breakout session with JFCS Senior Vice President for Programs and Strategy David Rosenberg. You can also email him 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 seven 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, facilitated by Bridgespan Group Senior Advisor Susan Wolf Ditkoff features key leaders and focuses on particular needs, aligned to our working groups. The entire series is available in a 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 last month’s webinar about Broke: The Game, a game Affinity Group member and JFCS of Pittsburgh COO Dana Gold created to promote awareness about the realities of poverty. (You can download the app version for free or order as a board game here.)

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—

Philadelphia City Council Votes to Create a Nonprofit Fund Aimed at Pulling 100,000 out of Poverty (Philadelphia Inquirer, November 12)

Millions Face Loss of Jobless Aid: ‘Without It, I’m Dead in the Water’ (New York Times, November 11)

Virus Relief Package Uncertain in Post-Election Congress (Associated Press, November 9)

Residents Feared Low-Income Housing Would Ruin Their Suburb. It Didn’t. (New York Times, November 5)

Biden’s Tax Plan Would Steer Aid to the Poor but Could Deter Some Wealthy Donors from Giving (Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 28)

A Canadian Study Gave $7,500 to Homeless People. Here’s How They Spent It. (Vox, October 27)

SNAP Benefits Cost a Total of $85.6B in the 2020 Fiscal Year Amid Heightened US Poverty and Unemployment (The Conversation, October 27)

We Could Abolish Child Poverty in the U.S. with Social Security Benefits for Poor Kids (Brookings Institution Blog, October 21)

MASBIA Soup Kitchen Transitions to 24-Hour Schedule to Help Those in Red Zones (News 12, October 20)

1.5 Million New Yorkers Can’t Afford Food. Pantries Are Their Lifeline. (New York Times, October 20)

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.