Shep Englander — Strategic Initiatives
Some Needed Good News
First, the courtyard at the Mayerson JCC is open again for J Café dining. The Friday omelet bar is back too! Now they are grilling for lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays (weather allowing). And outdoor heaters are on their way. The J’s courtyard is one of my favorite places. It’s wonderful to have a bit of normalcy in these days.
Second, as we launch our 2021 Annual Campaign, we are excited that it will be chaired by the dynamic duo of Sherri and Adam Symson. Adam and Sherri each bring very impressive professional backgrounds, but it is the way they use their talents and networks to champion our community that makes them transformative leaders. They have each volunteered for the Federation ever since they moved here from Los Angeles, via Chicago, in 2003. They thought they’d be in Cincinnati only for a few years. Getting involved in our Jewish community was a big part of making Cincinnati their home.
Nearly seventy Planning & Allocations volunteers have completed difficult work to match the Annual Campaign funding to today’s unprecedented needs.
“Our volunteers really stepped up, and we worked through a robust evaluative process,” Elida Kamine, Vice President of Planning & Allocations, told me. “We heard from agencies in real time about how they were working through pandemic-related challenges and adjusting their programs, as well as thinking ahead to 2021.”
Collaboration is at the core of the Federation-coordinated COVID-19 Relief Fund. Thus far, our community is successfully supporting many organizations and individuals through the pandemic.
“We knew that people in the Jewish community would have really deep needs as a result of the pandemic.”
—Suzette Fisher, former Federation President, long-time Federation volunteer
I am proud that the COVID-19 Relief Fund committee has allocated the first of two sets of grants. This temporary fund is coordinated by Federation, and run as a collaboration between the Federation, The Jewish Home of Cincinnati, The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, and community members. Federation raised a total of $1.3 million so far. Roughly half is being allocated this month. The other half has been held back for a second round of funding requests in December.
About half of the funds were donated by generous families. Their funds have been directed to basic needs/direct aid such as food, rent/mortgage assistance to keep people in their homes, mental health, and emergency medical expenses. Donations from the Jewish Federation and Foundation are being used to help our core organizations deliver needed programs safely during COVID.The gift from the Jewish Home is to provide programs for seniors, many of whom have been isolated during the pandemic.
The committee’s work: The COVID-19 Relief Fund allocations committee includes experienced volunteers from the community, representing the Foundation, the Jewish Home, and Federation’s Planning & Allocations executive committee. “I am thrilled at how smoothly it went,” said Jan Evans, Federation’s Director of Strategic Impact, “because we’ve never done anything quite like this before. The experience and creativity of the members of the committee was incredible.”
“We expect the needs to continue as COVID’s effects ebb and flow over the next two years. We will closely monitor the continuing needs. Especially if more people lose their jobs, we are going to need more,” Suzette Fisher said.
This is what Federation does: a bird’s eye view that brings the community together to figure out how to best serve the entire community.
I hope you also have some good news this month, and a favorite place to enjoy it.
P.S. I want to reassure you that we are monitoring concerns related to voting during the pandemic. SAFE Cincinnati, our security initiative, has been monitoring several of our congregations and schools that are adjacent to polling places and has requested increased patrols from law enforcement. And we are providing briefings to all congregations and agencies on preparing for election security and cyber security.