In March, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and Jewish Community Foundation, along with local families, launched the Jewish Community Pandemic Relief Fund to help community members facing financial challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since March, the fund has raised more than $404,000 and its task force has made numerous allocations to social welfare organizations that help the most vulnerable in the Jewish and general community.
With an early emphasis on food security and medical assistance, and an eye toward needs that may emerge as the financial impact of the crisis continues, these allocations included Jewish Family & Children’s Services and Interfaith Community Services, both of which administer emergency assistance funds, and the Community Food Bank, with grants to the three agencies totaling $105,000. Smaller grants were made to TIHAN-Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network, the Taglit Special Needs program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Southern Arizona, and for the burial of an indigent Jewish community member.
The fund also set aside $8,000 to purchase personal protective equipment, such as facemasks and hand sanitizer, for use by staff and visitors at local Jewish agencies, including JFCS, the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation, the Jewish History Museum & Holocaust History Center, Tucson Hebrew Academy and the Tucson Jewish Community Center.
Recent disbursements include $5,000 to buy facemasks and hand sanitizer for the Tohono O’odham Nation, as well as an additional $70,000 to support Jewish community agencies as each approaches re-opening.
Expressions of gratitude
An individual JFCS helped with emergency food assistance and hygiene supplies sent a thank-you letter that read, in part, “I am now residing in a local homeless shelter. I have severe food allergies and my EBT quickly goes to Kosher, organic foods that help my body to heal. Since the moment I walked into [JFCS] pre-COVID-19, and did my intake … I have been treated with respect, dignity and the highest level of customer service I’ve ever seen from a similarly situated agency … As a person of color it is healing on yet another level to be treated so impeccably. Thank you and all your staff for providing life changing and highly impactful services during this unprecedented crisis.”
Another thank-you letter said, “When there is no family within 2,000+ miles — the support you have provided me with is priceless!”
Meanwhile, in August the Foundation launched a series of webinars for its fund holders on the COVID-19 crisis and community response, with the Aug. 13 session focusing on social determinants of health such as race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The Sept. 3 session covered the housing and eviction crisis. An Oct. 6 session will focus on food insecurity.