Federation reaches $6 million in COVID-19 relief distributions
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Federation reaches $6 million in COVID-19 relief distributions

David Sufrin: “We saw an enormous number of families suffering health and financial impacts... the Jewish Federation needed to lead Jewish Pittsburgh through this crisis.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. (Photo by Adam Reinherz)
The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. (Photo by Adam Reinherz)

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Nov. 18 distribution of COVID-19 relief funds brings its total to more than $6 million.

This newest distribution of funds follows the board’s Nov. 11 approval.

“Because our Community Campaign raises unrestricted dollars, the Jewish Federation was able to respond with emergency funding as early as March 31,” said David D. Sufrin, chair of the Jewish Federation’s board, in a prepared statement. “We saw an enormous number of families suffering health and financial impacts, and we knew that the Jewish Federation needed to lead Jewish Pittsburgh through this crisis.”

COVID-19 has had a critical impact on Pittsburgh’s Jews, according to a recent Federation-funded study which “revealed a looming mental health crisis among young adults and a dire warning that job losses and financial hardship will push families already at risk of falling into poverty over the edge,” said Jan Levinson, chair of the Federation’s Community Campaign, in a prepared statement. “This is a perfect example of why we need a strong Community Campaign — it enables us to respond immediately during a crisis.”

Volunteers, along with Federation planning experts, its main beneficiary agencies and its two historical overseas partners, are working to continually track and fund areas of greatest need, according to a Nov. 18 Federation press release. “The key impact areas include health and wellness, emergency funding and food insecurity, physical space needs for proper social distancing, capacity building and maintaining Jewish identity.”

Federation’s local beneficiary agencies currently have more than $11 million in needs above their annual allocations because of the pandemic. In addition, millions more are needed in Israel and in other Jewish communities around the world, said Debbie Resnick, Federation’s Community Campaign co-chair. It is imperative, she said, that the Community Campaign reach its $14 million goal and beyond to meet those challenges.

The Federation has provided funds to cover the personal protective equipment of front-line workers and other COVID-19 safety equipment, including more than $540,000 to the Jewish Association on Aging. Other critical needs addressed by Federation funds, said Sufrin, include technology and training to facilitate remote learning at Jewish day schools, kosher meal delivery to seniors, and financial help for the unemployed.

Seed money in the amount of $2.5 million from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, designated for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh for health and human service needs, helped the Federation reach its $6 million total.

Fundraising for community pandemic relief was the result of a coordinated effort, said Jeffrey H. Finkelstein, Jewish Federation president and CEO.

“We knew that some of the most generous donors would receive COVID-19 relief requests from multiple organizations, so this crisis required an extraordinary level of cooperation,” he said “One of the strengths of Jewish Federation’s Community Campaign is the trust it enables us to build with Jewish agencies so that in times of crisis, we already know how to work together.”

A portion of the distributions will go to overseas Jewish communities. The American Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for Israel will distribute those funds.

In Israel, Federation support helps provide day care for the children of medical professionals so they can attend to the coronavirus caseload spike. In Israel, the former Soviet Union and Argentina, Federation funds provide hygiene supplies, emergency medicine and care for the neediest Jews, including homebound seniors. PJC

Toby Tabachnick

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