A lifeline of caring for those affected by pandemic
By Deb Silverthorn
When our community is in need, our community responds. Since March, approximately $140,000 has been raised by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation. The agencies established a Joint Emergency Committee to address dire needs.
“We realized the impact on our community was magnified with many individuals out of work and many agencies, schools, and shuls potentially out of options and short of funds,” said JFGD Board Chair A.J. Rosmarin. He and Mariam Shpeen Feist, the Federation CEO and president; Meyer L. Bodoff, CEO and president of the Foundation; and Foundation Board Chair Andy Dropkin lead the Joint Emergency Committee effort.
He noted that local institutions were tapped out after reaching out to their donor base, lenders and government loans. “The models by which they normally operate were, overnight, radically different,” Rosmarin said.
Community agencies who serve the most vulnerable, along with local synagogues and schools and the state’s Jewish overnight residential camps, were among those invited to present a Community Assessment form to the Joint Emergency Committee outlining potential revenue loss and other information as to the implications of the crisis.
“We didn’t know at the time if we’d have a tsunami of applications to the Joint Emergency Committee, or none,” said Rosmarin, “and we were concerned about the sustainability of funds to meet the unknown impact of the pandemic later in the year and after.”
The Federation’s Annual Community Campaign was on hiatus from March 17 until April 6 due to the shelter-in-place orders and the gravity of the pandemic’s impact; the campaign met its goal of $10 million by the end of the July 31 fiscal year.
“The Foundation helps create and manage legacies for the community now and for the future, and, coming together with the Federation, under these circumstances, follows our mission to improve our community and the world by empowering the philanthropic vision and passions of our fundholders and community partners,” said Dropkin. The two organizations provided $500,000 to jump-start the joint effort.
In addition, on April 6, the Federation created a separate Emergency Campaign, raising another $250,000 from its donor base. Those funds are also administered by the Joint Emergency Committee.
At press time, seven grant requestors have met the dire need criteria, with most organizations managing through the crisis with strong financial situations, Paycheck Protection Program loans and internal donations.
Jewish Family Service, which received a $10,000 grant from the Joint Emergency Committee, used the dollars to add to the Kosher Corner of its food pantry. The number of kosher families requesting support from the food pantry has at least doubled the last five months, and the grant allowed for purchases including kosher shelf stable items, meats, produce and dairy with additional items for the High Holy Days.
In addition, said JFS CEO Cathy Barker: “The total volume of food needed to sustain families has grown since March, when shelter-in-place guidelines were established, and the total volume of food needed has grown exponentially in the past month or so.”
The grant “comes just in time to keep our efforts on pace with the need.” She describes the agency as a lifeline, and crucial in a time of increased layoffs, families quarantining at home due to illness, and increased requests for kosher home delivered meals for the elderly. In the last five months, the JFS Food Pantry has served more than 20,000 people.
In addition, an Emergency Lifeline program through the Joint Emergency Committee of the Federation and Foundation was communicated to local rabbis who knew of members with critical needs for medicines and food. More than 20 families and individuals have received $250 each since the end of May.
“We are grateful the need has not been as dire as imagined,” said Rosmarin, noting it is impossible to know what the future financial health of any organization might be given the uncertainty of the pandemic. “Our support for the community is here during COVID-19 and the Federation and Foundation will continue to stand united long after we’re on the other side of it.”
For more information, to apply for emergency funds, or to donate to the Joint Emergency Committee, visit jewishdallas.org/coronavirus-covid-19 or call 214-615-5241.