How proud am I of how our Jewish community has pulled together to address the disruptions and challenges of the COVID-9 crisis?
Let me count the ways!
Unlike the old joke about the classic Jewish telegram: “Start worrying. Details to follow,” our collective response to COVID-19 actually started two weeks ago as Jewish Atlanta’s agencies, schools, and synagogues shared contingency plans for social distancing and remote working and learning. By the time most of us made the decision to cancel events and have our professionals work remotely, we were already on the same page. That’s what it means to be an ecosystem!
The “new normal” still feels strange, but we’re on surer footing every day. Federation’s leadership team meets daily via Zoom calls to troubleshoot and review priorities.
We’ve sent all our core partners a financial needs assessment survey. It asks them to list their most urgent needs and is helping us understand their financial pain points — lost revenue due to cancellation of programs, meeting payroll, populations at risk, staff layoffs, and more. The survey is giving us a real-time lens into the financial impact of COVID-19 in our community.
I’m proud that nearly overnight, we crowd-sourced a comprehensive online list of community resources: https://jewishatlanta.org/covid19-resources/available-resources/
Just last week, with the full support of our community partners and approval by the Federation board, we launched the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to help our organizations stay operational during this time, and prepare for the future, too.
Our Federation professionals are demonstrating a dedication and a work ethic that is incredible! They’ve pivoted on a dime to focus on the challenges of this moment, changing course to reflect new priorities.
With schools closed, thousands of parents are now working from home while also caring for children. It’s a huge disruption. So, I’m beyond proud of PJ Library Atlanta, which has gone way beyond books to become a community builder. PJ Library is reaching out to parents with a series of “Parenting Under Quarantine” virtual focus groups to gather information and assess programming parents need. They’re providing live story times in English, Spanish, and Russian as well as yoga classes and cooking demos daily via Facebook Live.
From ITP to OTP this community has rallied to create online Jewish learning opportunities, daily guided meditation, engaging programming for children of all ages, and a resource bank for individuals struggling with feelings of isolation and anxiety. By sharing information on social media we’re amplifying the community’s creative online offerings which have mushroomed to include virtual minyans, workshops, volunteer opportunities, live storytime, and virtual support groups.
We’re leveraging the Microsoft Teams platform to help our ecosystem organizations share discoveries and challenges in real time. It won’t replace communications like FederationFive, but anything tailored to organizational needs, like information from the Small Business Administration on loans, for example, or details on our new Emergency Response Fund, will now come through Teams.
Social distancing is painful, and the emotional toll of isolation is only beginning to be felt. We must hold fast to our values and our mission to put human needs first — and they are growing, day by day. Please help by giving generously to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.
As Passover draws near in a time of literal plague, let the words: Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, all of Israel are responsible for each other, be on our lips. This remarkable community was built on generosity, dreams, volunteerism, optimism and vision. Those qualities have never failed us. Together, I know we will come through this and will continue to proudly push Jewish life forward.