Shabbat Message - August 28, 2020


This message has 903 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.


As August draws to a close, we are focused on one thing: launching the Federation Annual Campaign on Tuesday, September 1st. It is going to be a campaign like no other in our history, and our whole team has been working flat out to prepare for it.
The theme this year is x COVID-19 (times COVID-19), because the community has the same layer of needs as a regular year and that has been multiplied in every area by the effect of COVID-19. From Jewish education to meal and grocery delivery to seniors who are still feeling isolated, everything has been compounded by the pandemic. It is unlike anything we and our partners have seen before.
Before we launch the campaign, we want to take this opportunity to outline our overall approach, because, as important as the Annual Campaign is, there is far more taking place concurrently.
As you probably already know, when the shutdown first happened, our role as community convenor came into play. Our Community Affairs team worked night and day to bring 14 groups of community organizations together to assess their needs and promote collaboration between organizations with similar challenges.
We then quickly released $505,000 to ensure people could obtain the immediate help they needed. As a result, the JCC was able to continue to offer programming online, Jewish Family Services was able to launch their hotline and deliver more meals and groceries, synagogues adapted their supplementary school formats, Tikva Housing received funds to increase the number of rental subsidies to families in need, and Jewish Seniors Alliance was able to provide additional support to seniors.

Our partners do not hold funds in reserve. They make sure every penny goes to helping people. So, it was our role to step up and provide emergency funds. It was a crucial first step, but still it was just that–a first step.


"Working with our major donors"

Meanwhile, we began working one-on-one with our major donors.
Knowing that the long-term impact that COVID-19 will have on our community is impossible to fully understand at this relatively early stage, we planned ahead. Many of our major donors stepped up in three crucial ways. First, they renewed their Annual Campaign commitments early. Second, they pledged to maintain their support over two years, not just one year. Third, they made additional commitments to the Community Recovery Fund. In addition, many of them also increased their annual support.
We will be asking something similar of you when the Annual Campaign launches, which is to renew your giving, and, if you can, to increase your gift and make an additional one-time gift to the Community Recovery Fund. We know it is a lot to ask, and we would not be doing so if the needs had not increased so dramatically this year.


"Community Recovery Task Force"

The next step we took was possible only because of our depth of experience as the central organization for community planning. That step was the establishment of the Community Recovery Task Force, chaired by Risa Levine. Task force members are already engaged in the first phase of their work, which is to assess the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable community members and how their needs impact the operations of agencies that deliver critical community services. They are also determining the financial and operational impacts of COVID-19 on partner agencies due to responding to community needs or significant losses of revenue.
From there they will determine who will receive recovery funds, for what purposes, and how they will be distributed. After that, they will examine innovative approaches implemented in other jurisdictions locally and across Canada to address recovery. In their final phase they will present strategic recommendations to our Board and to community donors on funding priorities for the 2021-2022 funding cycles.
Working closely with the task force are two members of our senior management team: Shelley Rivkin, vice president global and local engagement, and Marcie Flom, executive director of the Jewish Community Foundation.


"Helping our community weather uncertainty"

The Foundation has already played–and will continue to play–a key role in our recovery strategy, because they are uniquely positioned to help our community weather uncertainty. Since the earliest days of the pandemic, fund holders have turned to the Foundation to understand community needs and how best they could support recovery.
Through their endowment funds, fund holders have distributed more than $500,000 to meet increased community needs. This includes supporting organizations that were forced to cancel their spring fundraising galas, and providing much-needed funding for food security and seniors services. 

"Your opportunity to play a central role"

Why get into all this detail here today? Because all too often the Annual Campaign is seen as a stand-alone initiative. This year, more than ever, it is important to understand the overall strategic context of the Annual Campaign and what it means to our community.
Developing and implementing this strategic approach is not only possible because of our convening and community planning expertise, but because of the partnerships we have in place, and because of the generosity of donors like you.


So, we hope that this year you will see the Annual Campaign as more than simply a request for tzedakah, and instead as your opportunity to play a central role in making sure our community will get through this challenging time. Because we’re in this together, and it is together that we will get through it.

Shabbat Shalom.


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer