Shabbat Message - February 26, 2021


This message has 919 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.


Chag Purim sameach! We hope you are having a fantastic Purim, and we’re here to give you something extra to celebrate – no joke.
This week we released another $178,000 in Community Recovery funds, as recommended by our Community Recovery Task Force and approved by our Board. This time, the support is being directed to local synagogues.
This brings the total we’ve distributed for recovery to nearly $600,000 in the past month alone—on top of the $505,000 in emergency funding that we released last March. And we couldn’t have done it without YOU.
Our work toward recovery is not anywhere near complete, and we don’t expect it to be for some time. As we stand on the precipice of a possible third wave of COVID, what we have been saying all along rings truer than ever: the impact of the pandemic on our community will be felt well into next year.
As a Federation, we are fully prepared to address the impact for as long as it takes. Our staff and leadership are prepared, and our partners are with us. As we strengthen them with Community Recovery support, they will be better equipped to keep doing their important work.
I want to thank you, again, for backing us so we can continue to bring stakeholders together to foster collaboration, as we plan for the future, and as we raise and distribute the funds that are critical to seeing our community through this unprecedented time of need. I would also like to thank our Community Recovery Task Force, chaired by Risa Levine, for their thoughtful, strategic approach.
Whether you attend services regularly or not, synagogues are one of the cornerstones of any community. The funds will support things like technology upgrades; COVID related expenses, like extra cleaning and sanitizing; offsetting revenue lost from the room rental, simcha, membership income that would have sustained them in normal times; and the delivery of Shabbat and holiday meals to university students on campus. 
At its very core, the community recovery process is a deeply Jewish process that reflects the values that drive our mission and inspire our work: tikkun olam, tzedakah, klal Israel, and chesed. We asked rabbis from across our community tell us what it means to them.
Watch the video here. It also shows a breakdown of where the funds were distributed.

It isn’t too late to support this important work. You can make a secure online donation to recovery here. More rounds of funding are scheduled for this spring and summer.
There is also great news from our endowment program, the Jewish Community Foundation. With over $65 million in assets under management, the Foundation serves as the centre of philanthropy and legacy giving for the Jewish community. It is also playing an incredibly important role in community recovery this year–in particular through its Unrestricted Grant Program.
The program supports innovation, so that organizations can meet emerging and evolving needs. Of the many types of funds you can establish at the Foundation, Unrestricted Funds afford the Foundation the greatest flexibility to respond nimbly in order to best support the community. Being nimble in the face of great change has never been more important than it is during COVID.
This year, the Foundation is distributing more funds through the Unrestricted Grant Program than ever before–a total of $272,000.
The Foundation’s chair, Diane Switzer, and executive director, Marcie Flom, have been very closely involved in the work of our Community Recovery Task Force. Their participation has provided them with firsthand knowledge about how community needs have changed during COVID and the challenges and opportunities each organization is facing.
Armed with the same knowledge and insights as the Task Force members, the Foundation’s Unrestricted Grant Committee, co-chaired by Shannon Gorski and Shira van den Berg, was able to ensure that the grants will make the biggest possible impact. Grants will support areas such as technology upgrades, COVID preparedness resources, social services, housing subsidies, mental health support, and more.
The Foundation has built incredibly strong relationships with its fund holders over the years, in large part through their boutique approach to philanthropy. Throughout the pandemic, they have continued to work closely with fund holders, many of whom have used distributable income from their funds to support recovery.
Some fund holders decided to convert their donor-advised funds into unrestricted funds, trusting the Foundation to decide how to best disburse the income from their funds for our community’s current needs. This is a testament to the trust that fund holders place in the Foundation, and the confidence they have both in the Foundation’s knowledge of the community and in its ability to respond effectively—especially when crisis strikes.
Read more in the Foundation’s newsletter, Makor.
We are helping beyond our community, too. Last Friday, we opened the Texas Freeze Disaster Relief Fund, and on Monday evening our Board voted to disburse $10,000 in emergency funds to be split between the Jewish Federations of Houston and Greater Dallas. You can read more about the fund and make a donation here.
With the results of so much good work being announced this week, you might be wondering if this is something that our community can sustain for the long term. We firmly believe that it is. That’s because the leaders who will be at the helm of organizations throughout our community are already stepping up in big ways. They are honing their leadership skills and contributing their voices. We are honouring two of them–Lianna Philipp and Michael Solomon–with the Young Adult Leadership Award on March 2nd. Join us as we celebrate them for their contributions and commitment to community. 

Shabbat shalom.


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer