Jewish Family and Children's Services in San Francisco delivering food during the 1918 Spanish Flu. (COURTESY SUE TENEROWICZ)
Jewish Family and Children's Services in San Francisco delivering food during the 1918 Spanish Flu. (COURTESY SUE TENEROWICZ)

Federations, JFCS, Hebrew Free Loan announce coronavirus emergency funds

The Bay Area’s largest Jewish nonprofits have launched emergency fundraising efforts to combat the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

As fallout from the novel coronavirus, and responses to it, ripple across the local Jewish community, institutions that rely on a membership-based model, such as JCCs, have been hit particularly hard, according to Roxanne Cohen, director of community impact for the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.

At midnight on March 17, a shelter-in-place order went into effect for six Bay Area counties, shuttering nonessential business for at least three weeks.

“There’s certainly concern about business disruption and uncertainty about long-term impacts,” Cohen said, noting that generally, JCCs rely on gym memberships for between 70 and 90 percent of their revenues.

Last week, the Federation announced a COVID-19 Response Fund and created a portal on its website where people can donate. The donation page can be accessed directly at my.jewishfed.org/covid-19.

In recent years, the S.F-based Federation has opened single-issue emergency funds after serious incidents, including terrorist attacks in Israel, the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and the 2017 North Bay wildfires that devastated communities and largely destroyed Camp Newman in Sonoma County.

The organization raised about $1.3 million after the North Bay fires, with funds going not only toward rebuilding but also toward emergency preparedness for future events.

Cohen said it was premature to set a funding goal for the COVID-19 Response Fund “until we get a full scope of what the need is.” She said the Federation this week will be sending out a survey to local Jewish institutions, including synagogues, to “learn more about needs as they are projected.”

John Goldman (Photo/Steve Fisch)
John Goldman (Photo/Steve Fisch)

Cohen stressed that dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will be “a marathon, not a sprint.” To that end, the Federation has also established an emergency COVID-19 task force, chaired by San Francisco philanthropist John Goldman, a past president of the Federation and the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services. Since the taskforce was still in the process of forming at press time, the Federation could not make Goldman available for comment.

“Other than his agreement to spearhead the task force, the details have yet to be fleshed out,” spokesperson Kerry Philp wrote in an email.

JFCS also launched an emergency fund in recent days with money going directly to those affected by the coronavirus crisis. Nancy Masters, the agency’s associate executive director, said that as of March 17, the agency was almost entirely focused on responding to needs emerging as a result of the public health emergency. JFCS caters to many elderly Jews through its Seniors At Home division.

“The initial calls are from people who don’t have food and who need food delivered to them, people who need care at home and from isolated seniors who need support,” Masters said.

She said the situation was evolving and that, over time, additional needs may become apparent. Many people will be facing lost wages as the economy suffers from global fallout and local businesses stay closed.

Nancy Masters
Nancy Masters

“JFCS has always provided, and will continue to provide, emergency assistance to the community in need,” Masters said. “Exactly what will be needed? This is just Day 1 of the shelter-in-place order.”

Donations to the JFCS coronavirus community emergency fund can be made at donate.jfcs.org/give/277027. In addition, executive director Anita Friedman has posted a coronavirus update, recapping her agency’s current services.

Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay, which serves a similar clientele on the other side of the Bay Bridge, is collecting donations for vulnerable populations, such as low-income families, refugees who have lost their jobs and isolated seniors, at jfcs-eastbay.org/donate-now-2.

Jyl Jurman, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley, said in an email that the agency was busy coordinating with its community partners and was still assessing needs. More information, including a link to donate to the coronavirus response, can be found at jvalley.org.

With the stock market tumbling and more layoffs anticipated, financial effects are expected to increase.

Hebrew Free Loan is offering interest-free loans to individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic, either from missed paychecks, small-business losses or health care costs. More information can be found at hflasf.org/apply/loans-we-offer.

Masters said JFCS has a long history of reacting to crises and will be prepared to meet the challenges sure to emerge in the coming weeks.

“We’ve had multiple scenarios over many years where we’ve needed to gear up and respond to these types of emergencies,” she said, citing, among other things, wildfires and recessions. “We’ve been gearing up to respond to disasters since 1850.”

Need help? Contact the JFCS Bay Area Critical Help Line – (415) 449-3700.

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.