It’s hard to believe we are already six weeks into social distancing. We pray that you and those dear to you are healthy and doing whatever is possible to stay well. Our lives are changed and all of us are struggling, whether it be from isolation, financial concerns, health issues, loss . . . the list goes on. The pandemic is a human catastrophe and we are all human.
At the same time, we are heartened and inspired by the deep sense of personal resilience and commitment to our larger community we are witnessing. So many have stepped forward in meaningful ways by either volunteering, making donations or providing goods to help others who are the most vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis.
The Greater Miami Jewish Federation has committed significant funding to our agencies providing critical services at this time. We are pleased to let you know the dollars are translating into real help and relief for individuals and families who have expressed tremendous gratitude to those who are supporting these crucial efforts. Since you are among those who make this possible, we want to share the words of recipients of some of the emergency loans and grants we have processed over the past several days. Their thoughts convey the urgency of the situation and the power of collective action, and they demonstrate how these measures are having an immediate effect and providing comfort to very real people with very real needs.
- I no longer have work. I cannot pay my utilities and car payment and I need food for my family. My husband has several significant medical issues and cannot work safely in his job at this time.
- I live alone. I used to have a second job, but now there is no money coming in. I received a notice from my landlord to pay at least $650 or else they are going to turn off my utilities. This happened once already. If you can help me cover the rent, I can manage with the rest. I am a cancer survivor and I had a heart attack. I currently have pneumonia, but thank G-d I am still here!
- My business has dropped off dramatically. My wife lost her job, putting a tremendous strain on us. We are one month behind on our maintenance. We have five children. Our accounts are empty and we need some relief desperately. We have no family we are able to turn to at this time.
- As a performer, I lost all of my work due to COVID-19. I have no savings or alternate income now and am in need of help for living expenses like food, rent and utilities.
- My husband and I both lost our jobs. There are no words to describe how thankful we are. This really was a great relief for us…May G-d bless you all.
(We have removed personally identifiable information to protect the dignity and privacy of the recipients.)
This is a small sample of the messages we are receiving from those who are hurting and who are forced to ask for help as a result of the dramatic, tangible economic impact of this pandemic. In a matter of weeks, people who were once able to support Federation services for others are now on the receiving end — unexpectedly — and they are turning to Federation for help. Already we are managing a caseload of 150 new families requesting emergency financial assistance and the demand is growing every day. These requests are over and above the ongoing social service needs for existing clients of Federation-supported programs.
We recognize the importance of safeguarding community dollars and ensuring that funds are directed to the most vulnerable. Our Planning Department has assembled a committee to review applications to the Hebrew Free Loan Association, Federation-funded grant requests as well as supporting documentation. In addition, interviews are conducted by videoconference with borrowers and grantees as needed. While the majority of those we have helped are members of the Jewish community, as part of the larger community, we have also provided assistance to families referred to us by local churches and nonprofit organizations.
As challenging as this moment is for everyone, this is exactly why Federation exists. The robust infrastructure of agencies, services and volunteer leadership built up by the Annual Greater Miami Jewish Federation/UJA Campaign in the decades before this virus surfaced has expanded to immediately address urgent needs here, in Israel and around the world — just as we have in past crises.
Please remember: if you are in need of assistance, call our Jewish community’s confidential helpline at 305.576.6550 for guidance. Operated by Federation partner agency, Jewish Community Services of South Florida (JCS), the helpline is open 24/7 every day of the year.
Friends, today is the Rosh Chodesh Iyar, the first day of the month of Iyar. We commemorated Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) this week and next week, we mark Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day. The juxtaposition of these important dates on our calendar reminds us that from our darkest hours we have the capacity to turn despair and devastation into healing and celebration. So may it be for us in the days ahead, kayn yehi ratzon.
We wish a refu’ah sh’lemah to all those people affected by this and other illnesses and we pray for comfort for those who have lost loved ones. We urge you to please continue to remain diligent in following health and safety guidelines.
Have a peaceful, healthy and safe Shabbat,