Local | Mind, Body & Spirit

Jewish community responds to pandemic with relief fund

In response to the growing spread of COVID-19, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and the Jewish Community Foundation have created a Jewish Community Pandemic Relief Fund to help meet the needs of the most vulnerable members in the Jewish and greater communities.

Graham Hoffman is president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona and president and CEO-elect of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona

“We have set it up to meet the most immediate, urgent, and compelling needs,” says Graham Hoffman, president and CEO of the Foundation and president-elect of the Federation. He explains that the fund currently is working with two local partners, Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona and Interfaith Community Services.

JFCS administers Jewish Emergency Financial Assistance (also known as LEAF, the Local Emergency Assistance Fund) and the Jewish Elder Access program. JFCS now is providing all services remotely, either by phone or through teleconferencing. ICS, which Federation, Foundation, and many local synagogues support, provides similar services to the general community, including two food banks now operating on a drive-through basis, senior services, and an emergency relief fund.

The emergency funds now are focusing on food security and medical assistance, says Hoffman. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey last week delivered an executive order delaying evictions for 120 days for renters impacted by COVID-19. Major utilities companies also have agreed not to cut service to those who have difficulty paying during the pandemic crisis.

“The fund is being set up in such a way that we can deploy resources to other emerging needs as they develop,” says Hoffman, explaining that the Federation is in regular contact with JFCS and is helping to monitor the volume and type of calls and other inquiries.

Emerging needs may include such concerns as a rise in domestic violence due to people practicing social distancing by staying home instead of going out to work or school, says Hoffman, noting that the Federation participated in a call March 26 convened by the United Way, where this issue was discussed.

“As we see that things are changing or evolving, we will be able to mobilize funds in the community toward the places where they are most needed,” Hoffman says.

Thanks to the generosity of several local families, donations to the Jewish Community Pandemic Relief Fund are being matched dollar for dollar, up to $150,000.

Leslie Glaze, a Federation board member and active community volunteer, says it is a privilege to be able to join in this community effort.

“Stu Mellan approached my mother in 2008 at the origin of what was then called the Local Emergency Allocation Fund, and talked with her about the very real fact that many members of our community were suffering because of a sudden and dramatic loss in financial circumstances,” says Glaze. During that economic downtown, people were struggling “to put food on the table, take kids to the doctor, put gas in the car, you name it.”

“At the time my mom was inspired to donate to that fund,” says Glaze, who notes that she speaks not only on behalf of her mother, Phyllis Maizlish, but also her three siblings, their spouses, and her husband. “When we approached her again regarding this special pandemic relief fund, she, like all of us, wanted to help build this safety net.”

As relative newcomers to Tucson, Glaze says, her family is proud to join with others in the community who contributed to the matching funds, including Jane Kivel, Barry and Janet Lang, Helaine Levy, Jill Rosenzweig, Ron and Diane Weintraub, Ron and Kathy Margolis, Deanna Evenchik-Brav, Marilyn Einstein and Steve Sim, the Pozez family, Bruce and Jane Ash, and an anonymous donor.

“This is a challenging and uncertain time for all, so anything we can do to mitigate the pain is well worth our effort and our resources,” Glaze says.

How to access services
A list of community resources can be found at www.jfsa.org/pandemic.

JFCS assists Jewish people and families in need through a variety of programs, including Jewish Emergency Financial Assistance, which provides food cards, medical assistance, and other basic provisions, and Jewish Elder Care Access, which connects seniors 60+ to the services and support they need. JFCS also provides resource referral and assistance navigating benefits. Call 795-0300 Monday to Friday, 9 a.m.-4p.m. to learn more.

Additional services tailored to the Jewish community include JFSA’s Senior Transportation Service, which provides free rides for Jewish seniors and adults with disabilities. This service can be used for limited but essential transportation to pharmacies and grocery stores. Pre-registration is required; call 647-8456 to pre-register for this service. Once a person is registered, Handicar can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 881-3391.

Chaplaincy services for Jewish individuals and their families while in the hospital or on hospice are available through JFSA. All services are provided by phone at this time; contact Stacey Tarquinio at chaplain@jfsa.org or 419-8338.

Resources provided to the entire Southern Arizona community include The Free Loan at the Jewish Federation and programs at ICS. The Free Loan provides interest free loans of up to $5,000 with the appropriate guarantor; contact the Free Loan at 297-5360 or yana@thefreeloan.org.

ICS offers emergency financial assistance, food banks, and services to senior and disabled adults to anyone in need in Southern Arizona. Call 297-6049
Monday to Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Donate or volunteer
To donate to the Jewish Community Pandemic Relief Fund, visit www.jfsa.org/pandemicrelief.

Volunteer opportunities include the following:

• Provide social connections via phone and video chat for isolated community members. Contact Carol Sack, Jewish Community Concierge, at concierge@jewishtucson.org or 647-8446.

• Assist ICS with its food bank and other services. Contact Tori Carlson-Foscz, ICS volunteer services manager, at tcarlson@icstucson.org.

• Sew reusable masks for medical workers with Mending Souls.

“In my 25 years of work at the Jewish Federation, my proudest moments have been when we’ve come together as a community to take care of each other,” says Stuart Mellan, Federation president and CEO. “During these trying times we hope that those in need of a helping hand will reach out to us; and those that are able to help will give generously so that we can provide critically-needed support and services.  We surely need to draw strength from each other.”