Jewish Together harnesses the power of connection
Photo: Courtesy Kevin Garsek
“Millions of items can be ordered without a problem but these agencies need hundreds, maybe thousands, and those orders can’t happen,” said Harold Gernsbacher, who made arrangements for his former company, Chain Link Services in Fort Worth, to serve as Jewish Together’s distribution center. “You’ve got to build systems, grow community and do right — it’s just that simple.”

By Deb Silverthorn
A Dallas Jewish community leader and business owner has played a key role in enhancing the purchasing power of personal protection equipment (PPE) for more than 200 not-for-profit Jewish nursing homes, hospice care centers, home care, and other front-line eldercare providers.
Harold Gernsbacher brought the expertise of his career in supply chain to Jewish Together, an initiative by the Jewish Federations of North America to aggregate orders of masks, gloves and isolation gowns. The organization is also supported by the Association of Jewish Aging Services, Jewish Funders Network and the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies and is partnered with Armour.org, aggregating more than $8 million of orders.
“The Jewish community’s next-generation leadership stepped up and pledged to do whatever it takes to protect our bubbes and zaydies,” said Alex Jakubowski, one of Jewish Together’s lead coordinators. “Several of our suppliers are next-generation Jewish leaders donating products, or significantly decreasing prices, even in the midst of a global bidding war.”
JFNA Executive Vice President Mark Gurvis introduced Jakubowski, based in Chicago, to Gernsbacher, JFNA treasurer and past national campaign chair of the board of trustees, and chair of the board of the Secure Community Network. Gernsbacher personally provided the financial guarantee, fronting the complete order for the coalition of agencies. He arranged for his former company, Chain Link Services in Fort Worth, to serve as Jewish Together’s distribution center.
Expecting the need for PPE to grow throughout the course of the pandemic, Jewish Together has created its Pledge to Protect crowdfunding campaign, of which 100% of money raised will assist in lowering the costs of purchasing and distributing the equipment.
“The core of Jewish Together is young adults meeting on every platform,” said Jordan Elcott, of Costa Mesa, California, who with his father Shalom, of New York City, a career Jewish communal professional, helped Jakubowski make connections to Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity brothers. “In a short time we had three rounds and equipment making its way around the world.”
Ryan Bishop, a Houston native transplanted here after his graduation from University of North Texas, met his parents Geri and Scott, who are Houston residents, on an I-45 road trip in Madisonville to hand off PPE for Seven Acres Jewish Senior Care.
AEPi alum Jeff Dworkin and his son, Josh, and AEPi brother Garrett Heller, were happy to make a delivery to The Legacy Willow Bend, where Jeff’s mother Sandra lives.
“We got a call asking if we could pick up the orders in Fort Worth and we were thrilled to help,” Dworkin said. “It was the first time I’d seen Mom since the middle of March. Even the glimpse of her in the lobby was a gift back to us.”
Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas and The Legacy Willow Bend both purchased equipment through the Jewish Together program.
“PPE costs tripled, then quadrupled. As a not-for-profit agency we couldn’t keep up. We’re lucky to have found pockets of those who know where supplies are, helping us ensure the health and safety of our residents and staff,” said Laura Levy, executive director of The Legacy Willow Bend. The lifecare community purchased approximately $13,000 in equipment, including 600 gloves, 200 KN95 masks, 195 N95 masks and 3,500 isolation gowns. “The Jewish community came together and Jewish Together is a wonderful part of that.”
JFS, a member of the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, purchased 2,000 gloves, 900 surgical masks and 10 isolation gowns for close to $900. The agency uses PPE for its Kosher Home Delivery program, for its drive-thru food pantry and for staff entering the workplace every day.
“There was trouble accessing supplies and there was some definite price gouging,” said Ellyn Golub, office manager and executive assistant to the CEO. “The costs of Jewish Together supplies were definitely better than what we found when we looked elsewhere.”
Golub noted that as the supply chain has improved, JFS has supplemented from other sources.
The effort has had some bumps along the way, Gernsbacher said, but the young organization has persevered. “We are blessed to have the resources, willingness and know-how. We got it done and we did it for the right reasons.”
And he’s also pleased to have met an impressive new connection in Alex Jakubowski.
“Alex is an incredible human being who will make anything he wants to happen, happen. Fortunately, everything he wants to happen is of goodness. We’ll be friends for life,” Gernsbacher said.
For more information about Jewish Together, visit jewishtogether.org/pledgetoprotect.

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