Home Federation Responding to a Pandemic – Collectively

Responding to a Pandemic – Collectively

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An update from JCFR President Ellen Renee Adams and CEO Daniel Staffenberg

On March 11th, 2020, the first impacts of COVID-19 were felt in our community. The Weinstein JCC, Jewish Community Federation, Richmond Jewish Foundation and Rudlin Torah Academy closed their facilities, a day later Beth Sholom Senior Living closed their campus to outside visitors. Others soon followed.

While our physical workspaces closed, Federation and our partners remained open. Together, Federation and our partners were able to quickly mobilize, adapt and act because the network of services and systems you support are in place 365 days a year. Additionally, long standing relationships with local, state and federal officials allowed Federation to advocate and gain critical insight and information for our community.

Critical Services to the Vulnerable

Our lay and professional teams at Federation worked with our local and overseas partners to identify and triage needs, raise funds, strategize and share information and resources. Our goal was simple: to ensure that critical services to the vulnerable were maintained and our agencies remained strong.

As we look back on the last year, the challenges we faced were enormous. As we anticipate brighter days ahead, we are humbled and honored to share this detailed look into your Federation’s response to COVID-19. This is all made possible by your generous ongoing support and our network of agencies and partners.

To date, your Jewish Community Federation of Richmond has distributed $303,000 in Coronavirus Relief funds. These funds have been leveraged with other statewide and federal grants, and private philanthropy to infuse over $5.5 million into our community. These dollars made an immediate impact on every part of our Jewish world.

Community Coordination and Convening

  • Convened regular information and strategy calls for the Greater Richmond Jewish community, including Charlottesville, Fredericksburg and Petersburg.
  • Provided webinars for agency and synagogue leadership with leading health, financial and strategic planning
  • Provided up-to-the minute information, resources and consultation about PPP loans, resulting in over $4.899 million in successfully granted capital to support local Jewish institutions.
  • Coordinated community-wide needs assessment in real time, ensuring emerging and ongoing needs were met and vital human and financial resources deployed effectively and efficiently.
  • Assessed security needs, both physical and cyber, and provided training on virtual program best practices and models.
  • Coordinated communication with community and distributed resources to secure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including over 1,000 facemasks.
  • Activated Volunteers – Federation engaged and deployed hundreds of volunteers to make check-in calls, deliver PPE and food and assisted our partners at Henrico County in securing volunteers to facilitate vaccination appointments and support at community Vaccination sites. Together, these individuals contributed over 533 volunteer hours.
  • Federation secured vaccination appointments when a glitch in the statewide appointment system occurred. Within 5 hours, our network allowed us to secure vaccines for over 350 individuals, including members of all faiths and backgrounds.
  • Advocacy- From the start of the crisis and continuing to this day, Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee has been a strong and leading advocate on behalf of our agencies, Israel, synagogues and individuals in need at the local, state and federal level. We’ve helped coordinate interfaith dialogues on race, advocated for funding and charitable giving incentives and been there to support a strong Israel-U.S. relationship.

Supporting Vulnerable Populations

  • $4,000 – Distributed equally among each of our community synagogues to allow for the dignified and confidential distribution of immediate food insecurity and economic support of their congregants.
  • Provided over 40,000 Healthy Meals to families throughout Richmond through Feed More. Feed More partners with local Jewish food banks and these dollars were allocated and matched to support both Jewish and general community needs.
  • $3,000 – to support additional burial needs for those in economic hardship. Over the past year we have experienced a significant increase in requests for help with Jewish burials. These dollars ensure that every Jew, regardless of financial means or religious affiliation, receives a dignified, traditional, funeral and burial.
  • $27,000 – JFS Richmond Jewish Care Line – provides direct, emergency support to Jews in economic or other crises. The funds support basic human needs, including food, utility bills, rent, medical and emergency assistance. The Care Line experienced a 50% increase in calls over the past twelve months.
  • $15,000 in additional scholarship for families living on modest incomes to support participation in Jewish Preschools at the Weinstein JCC and Aleph Bet Preschool
  • $2,000 JDC – Support for the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) JoinTech initiative in Zaparozhye, Ukraine. The program combat senior isolation during COVID-19 through technology, and will remain once COVID-19 retreats, creating a critical safety net for geographically isolated seniors.
  • $2,000 – Hillel at Virginia Tech – Support a program for students experiencing economic hardship by employing them while their regular jobs are unavailable due to COVID-19. Many of the students are from parts of Virginia where Jewish life is limited and Hillel is their Jewish connection. Funds were matched 1:1 by a matching grant.
  • $2,000 – JAFI –To support The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) Amigour Sheltered Housing program. The program supports the medical and technology needs of the elderly and Holocaust Survivors who reside in the JAFI sponsored low income housing.
  • $5,000 – JDC – To support JDC COVID-19Covid relief supporting the most vulnerable Jewish seniors in need in Ukraine. Funds were matched.
  • $500 – Jewish Life at VCU to pilot a collaborative program between JFS Richmond and Jewish Life at VCU to support students experiencing food insecurity in a dignified manner. The funds purchased $25 gift cards to grocery stores around VCU. Jewish Life at VCU students were given a confidential and dignified way to pick up the cards, while at the same time connecting those in need of further help a direct connection to JFS Richmond.
  • $500 to Beth Sholom Woods’ food pantry to support low income elderly.

Securing and Protecting the Community

  • The Jewish Community Federation Community Security Initiative provided hundreds of hours of consultation to agencies and synagogues around security and reopening.
  • $10,333 – Federation provided COVID-19 Reopening Kits and supplies to agencies and synagogues throughout Greater Richmond, Charlottesville and Hillels at University of Virginia, VCU and Virginia Tech. These included thermometers, hand sanitizer, masks, face shields, information packets and gloves.
  • $10,000 to the Weinstein JCC to hire a nurse to support the reopening of camp and preschool. The nurse assisted with testing, medical care and supported families during their transition back into the facility.
  • $2,165to Aleph Bet Preschool to purchase air cleaners allowing, them to reopen, and for families to return to work.

General Support for Jewish Communal Organizations

  • $40,000 to Beth Sholom Senior Living unrestricted grant to support ongoing operations
  • $67,000 to JFS Richmond unrestricted grant to support ongoing operations
  • $10,000 to Weinstein JCC to support ongoing operations and summer camp preparation
  • $18,000 to Weinstein JCC to support the opening of Camp Hilbert pool and facility in Summer 2020
  • $18,000 to Beth Sholom Senior Living to help fund the additional COVID-19 costs of 1,000 resident days. As COVID-19 hit nursing homes hard, personnel costs, PPE, testing and other costs skyrocketed.
  • $1,500 to Aleph Bet Preschool to fund distance learning and technology needs during the shutdown, allowing Jewish families to stay connected.
  • $2,500 to Rudlin Torah Academy to fund distance learning technology and the purchase of Chromebooks for families in need.
  • 12 iPads were distributed to Beth Sholom Senior Living to allow for families to virtually visit with residents, and to provide entertainment and maintain connection and mental health during the campus lockdown.
  • 8 iPads were distributed to JFS Richmond to support and launch a telehealth program to serve isolated and frail elderly, counsel clients and those experiencing mental health crises during the Pandemic in a safe and consistent manner.
  • Federation accelerated allocation payments to support cash flow at agencies and partners struggling through the Pandemic.

Sustaining and Building Community

  • Established a special Jewishrichmond.org COVID-19 resource website, connecting community and provided accurate and up-to-date information.
  • Federation curated community Jewish learning resources and communicated opportunities for engagement weekly through the Community E-News, connecting families to each other and the community.
  • The Federation curated and shared 1000’s of hours of virtual programs, including people-to-people connections in Israel, webinars, trainings and lectures.
  • Federation partnered with VPM (Virginia Public Media) to produce a RVA 2020 Passover showcase, allowing members of the community to experience the joy of Passover safely.
  • Federation coordinated and shared Jewish Holiday Guides and messages from each of our Community Rabbis for Hanukkah, Passover, Shabbat and more.

Structures in Place

Eighty- six years ago the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond was founded so that we would have the structures in place to respond to crises. Over the past year, we have leaned on and learned from each other, shared resources and expertise and found strength in shared values. The response to COVID-19 showed the power of our Federation system and the strength of an interconnected community. It is because of your generosity that we stand ready for what comes next.

As vaccination rates increase and we pray that the virus is in retreat, we begin to look ahead. Our plan is not just to get back to where we were, but to build on the lessons and learning of the past year and find a new path forward. One which builds on our foundations and creates an even more connected, more vibrant, and stronger Jewish community.

We wish you a restful and meaningful Shabbat,

Ellen Renee and Daniel

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