When Covid-19 hit our communities, many faced financial troubles with medical bills, unemployment, and food insecurity. The Jewish Federation along with the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven, responded by supporting the most vulnerable. Through their COVID-19 Response/Maimonides Fund, the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation worked with the local Jewish organizations and synagogues to provide critical aid to many families and individuals in need.
As of September 25, this fund has already distributed $281,600 in emergency grants to many local Jewish organizations and synagogues.
Rabbis and professionals working directly with people can best convey how the program helped—
Elizabeth Davenport, LMSW, at Jewish Family Services of Greater New Haven (JFS) said “Our clients are dealing with a number of anxieties, including limited access to food, fear of getting sick, and being worried about their loved ones.” Her colleague, Rachel Scolnic Dobin, LMSW, adds “People were laid off, or had their hours significantly reduced, and are dealing with a multitude of issues connected to unemployment. We have many new emergencies for those facing 100% loss of income who don’t know where to turn” with the grant from COVID-19 Response/Maimonides Fund, JFS provided 197 additional mental health sessions, many of which were to isolated seniors, as well as community members with disabilities. Through their outreach program, they provided 763 hours of case management services to more than 250 individuals and their food pantry has served 500 families.
“It is the second time I have used the Maimonides Fund,” says Rabbi Michael Farbman from Temple Emanuel of Greater New Haven, whose community in Orange includes 180 families. One of Farbman’s congregants was struggling with medical bills what had been exacerbated due to the current health crisis. “The Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation answered my request and I was able to pay the bill on behalf of this person,” he says. “I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and the thinking that is behind this program; it recognizes the current and critical needs in our community and brings us together in the deepest way.”
Senior citizens were hit especially hard in the pandemic. Jennifer Bayer, Development/Community Relations Director at The Towers at Towers Lane explains “Our residents are already disproportionately affected by COVID due to their age and the congregate housing setting,” The Towers offers both affordable housing for those in need and regular priced apartments for over 320 seniors with an average age of 86. “Many of our seniors, whose average annual income is $15,000, already have trouble paying for and preparing healthy meals—getting groceries is difficult for many of them on a good day, let alone in time of crisis.” Thanks to support from the COVID-19 Response/Maimonides Fund, the Towers was able to deliver three meals a day, seven days a week, regardless of ability to pay, to each of their 320 seniors. This was designed to eliminate the residents’ needs to shop and reduce their contact with the outside world during the pandemic. “We went from 200 meals a day to an average of almost 1,000 meals a day. We really believe it was how to protect lives,” says Bayer. The Towers also received emergency grants from the COVID-19 Response/Maimonides Fund to purchase PPE for staff, as well as iPads that can be loaned to residents for telehealth and virtual family meetings.
Additional emergency grants from the fund have been made to Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy and Ezra Academy for PPE to allow them to open; to the Jewish Community Alliance for Refugee Resettlement (JCARR) to assist refugees who have lost their jobs; as well as to numerous synagogues, at rabbis’ requests to assist individuals and families in need of food, rent and utility monies, and other issues related to unemployment.
At this time, the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation continue to see ongoing and increasing needs in our community for mental health services as well as requests for assistance with food and rent. The COVID-19 Response/Maimonides Fund Grants Committee, together with the Boards of the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation, are assessing next steps to assist local agencies and synagogues so that they may meet these needs going forward.