The Alliance’s COVID-19 relief campaign is helping the hardest hit

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“It is a very warm feeling to know that people around us care and are concerned for our well-being.”

— Jewish Collaborative Services’ client

When the COVID-19 crisis began, the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island stepped in to coordinate relief and recovery efforts for the community.  Over 400 generous donors gave more than $250,000 to the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Campaign.

The Alliance has worked with community leaders to determine the best ways to allocate these funds for maximum impact.  To date, $105,000 has been given to individuals and organizations in the community, according to Jennifer Zwirn, director of Community Investment at the Jewish Alliance.  

“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we had seen tremendous need in our community from those out of work or who have unexpected expenses because of the pandemic,” said Adam Greenman, president and CEO of the Jewish Alliance. “I’m so proud that the Alliance could coordinate this community-relief effort, and humbled that our community raised over $250,000 to support community members in need.”

In the weeks and months ahead, these funds will continue to be used to help the community. Here are a few ways community members have already benefited from this generosity: 

Helping the vulnerable:  When the pandemic hit, many more members of the community found themselves in need of help.  COVID-19 campaign funds have helped clients of Jewish Collaborative Services (JCS) in many ways, including restocking the Kosher food pantry, delivering food, case management, transportation assistance and gift cards for essential services.  The funds, along with in-kind gifts from community partners, have also helped pay for funeral and shivah costs. 

Maintaining Jewish connections: The COVID-19 campaign funds ensured that families could continue to provide Jewish opportunities for their children, even if they found themselves in a challenging financial situation. Scholarships helped offset the costs of camp and other opportunities. Funds also provided cleaning supplies at Jewish facilities; upkeep of Camp JORI; and upgrades to the physical space at Brown RISD Hillel and the University of Rhode Island Hillel to ensure spaces were safe for people to gather and engage in Jewish life.

Supporting congregations:  Working closely with the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island and synagogue leadership, COVID-19 campaign donations were used for grants to rabbinic discretionary funds in order to give congregations the ability to help individual congregants in need.  In addition, money for extra security was provided for over 50 High Holy Days services, and for pandemic safety measures, such as upgrades to air filtration systems. And funding was increased for JCS’ Kesher program, to support synagogue-based mental health and case-management services for people affected by COVID-19. 

Alvan Kaunfer, rabbi emeritus of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence, and a distribution committee member, said, “Neighbors supporting neighbors is the foundation of all strong communities, and we are fortunate that so many people stepped up to help each other.”

As one grateful beneficiary put it, “Thank you very much for the assistance we received.  We appreciate the money just as much as the gesture itself.  It is a great feeling to know we are part of a community that is looking out for everyone.”

SARA MASRI (smasri@jewishallianceri.org) is chief philanthropy officer at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.