Jewish Federation approves relief funds, raises money
COVID-19Aid & Fundraising

Jewish Federation approves relief funds, raises money

Additional $1 million in COVID-19 relief allocated

For the first time, volunteers participated virtually in the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh's Super Sunday. Screenshot by Jim Busis.
For the first time, volunteers participated virtually in the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh's Super Sunday. Screenshot by Jim Busis.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s board of directors, on Dec. 14, allocated an additional $1 million in COVID-19 relief funds, bringing its total to more than $7 million.

Of particular note, according to Director of Marketing Adam Hertzman, is $1.2 million dedicated to health and human services, making the Pittsburgh Jewish community eligible for $600,000 in matching dollars from the Jewish Federation of North America’s Human Service Matching Fund.

That money will be used to support services outside of education and the connection to Jewish life, Hertzman explained.

“It’s food insecurity, mental health, it’s physical health,” Hertzman said. “It’s protecting frontline workers, which is super important right now. It’s providing staffing necessary to enable social distancing. It’s providing support for people with financial insecurity during the pandemic. All the things that enable people to keep their families healthy, safe and solvent, which are all connected.”

While the funds are unrestricted, Hertzman pointed out that several beneficiary agencies, including the Jewish Association on Aging and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, serve the target population of the new COVID-19 vaccine: residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes, at-risk seniors and frontline workers.

Other beneficiary agencies include the three Jewish day schools — Community Day School, Hillel Academy Pittsburgh and Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh. For the first time, allocations include unrestricted grants to the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee for food insecurity and emergency funding programs.

“This is the power of collective giving through the Federation,” said Jeff Finkelstein, Federation’s President and CEO. “Together, and only together, can we address the most challenging issues facing our community. Now more than ever, we fight the pandemic and help people in need together with Jewish agencies working as donors, volunteers, community members and staff. All Jewish Federation supporters should feel so proud of what we accomplish.”

The timing of the additional distribution is due to emerging needs, Hertzman said, pointing to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County.

“Until recently, we looked at individual requests, and although this funding is in response to individual requests, we realized some of the agencies need more flexibility,” Hertzman explained. “The JCC, for example, has additional staff time they have to pay for to distribute grab-and-go meals, their collaboration with the Squirrel Health Center on COVID-19 testing, health testing for the Early Childhood Center. The JCC and JAA are now looking forward to the possibility of vaccinations, as well.”

On Sunday, Dec. 13, Federation raised more than $211,000 at their annual Super Sunday fundraiser. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the phone-a-thon was held virtually with 339 volunteers making calls from their home to prospective donors.

That figure is less than in previous years, but Hertzman explained that because of the pandemic and expected glitches caused by using new software, Federation anticipated the smaller amount.

“We wanted to make sure that the volunteers had a good experience and that they knew what to do,” he said. Now they hope to make up the difference.

“If there was ever a year we need to set a record for the capital campaign, this is it,” Hertzman said. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at

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