JFSA, others cancel events, focus on giving, digital resources in face of coronavirus

A view from the lobby of the Harvey and Deanna Evenchik Center for Jewish Philanthropy, home of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona (Martha Lochert)

UPDATEThe Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona have created a web page at www.jewishtucson.org/pandemic containing community resources, volunteer opportunities, and a link to donate to the newly created Jewish Community Pandemic Relief Fund, which provides emergency financial assistance and meets critical needs for individuals, families, and the agencies that serve them.

In response to the growing global COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona have canceled all public events and activities until the end of Passover on April 16, as well as several major events anticipated for later this spring, including the Israel Festival and Men’s Poker Night.

This is a “proactive and precautionary step,” Graham Hoffman, president and CEO of the Foundation and president and CEO-elect of the Federation, said in a March 13 community email announcing the cancellations.

On Tuesday, in a further email entitled “Keeping Our Community Safe and Healthy,” Hoffman announced “a liberal telework policy for both Federation and Foundation offices in an effort to further reduce the opportunity for the virus to spread. Our policy will encourage anyone who can telework effectively to do so — and thereby dramatically reduce the number of professionals in our offices. This is in keeping with advice put forth by national, state, and local governmental leadership and the guidance of bodies such as the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

“The top priority now is the health and well-being of the donors, staff, agencies, and volunteers who we work with,” said Hoffman, who noted that the decision “applies to the Federation and Foundation — all of our community organizations and synagogues will continue to make their own determinations based on the developing

As many local organizations and synagogues already have announced that they have suspended all in-person meetings and services, this edition of the Arizona Jewish Post does not include the usual “Community Calendar” pages. Some synagogues are digitally streaming Shabbat services and many are providing students with distance learning opportunities; see the Area Congregations ad on page 22, for websites and phone numbers.

On Monday, the Tucson Jewish Community Center sent an email announcing it would close for at least two weeks as a precautionary measure, with the intention of reopening Wednesday, April 1.  The email from the J’s president and CEO, Todd Rockoff, noted that during the closure the J will thoroughly disinfect its building.

The J has created a virtual community where people can explore resources to help them keep active, sharp, and healthy while the building is closed during the COVID-19 outbreak. The page at www.bit.ly/tucsonjvirtual is a work in progress and will be continuously updated. 

At Jewish Family & Children’s Services, individual services such as counseling and case management are being provided remotely, through tele-conferencing or by phone. Group programs are suspended. With funding from JFSA, JFCS will provide additional financial assistance to the Jewish community, as well as information and referral services. Call JFCS at 795-0300.

Hoffman’s message, which also was signed by Federation President and CEO Stuart Mellan, Federation Chair Deborah Oseran, and Foundation Chair Jeff Katz, said, “It is a time for solidarity and hope, kindness and caring for one another. We are working with our partner agencies and organizations to understand the scope of the needs of our community and assess the best way to move forward with a meaningful response. We hope that you will join us as we strive to uplift our world during this challenging time of uncertainty and turmoil.” For the latest information about COVID-19, visit www.azhealth.gov/COVID19, www.cdc.gov, or call the coronavirus hotline at 1-844-542-8201.

(Updated 3.23.20 with information about www.jewishtucson.org/pandemic.)