This week marks the one-year anniversary of Israel declaring a national state of emergency, setting in motion the restrictions on movement and social interaction that led to Israel’s first coronavirus lockdown.
Countries around the globe soon imposed their own lockdowns and social distancing measures as the world began what has been a very challenging year.
Unfortunately, our Federation system knows only too well how to respond in a crisis, and even though Covid-19 is different than anything we’ve faced before, thanks to your ongoing support year after year, frameworks were in place both locally and overseas to immediately help Jewish communities and Jews affected by the pandemic. Below are a few inspiring examples of the impact this collective generosity had in Israel and around the world.
A Booster Shot to Israel’s Third Sector, Serving Israeli Citizens
Just as elsewhere around the world, Israel’s economy took a big hit in 2020. Government loans helped many of our vital Jewish communal institutions remain afloat in the USA. In Israel, Federations, through our partner The Jewish Agency for Israel, helped establish an emergency loan fund for Israeli nonprofits facing unprecedented financial pressure due to the pandemic. As a result, these organizations continued to serve tens of thousands of Israelis from among the nation’s most vulnerable populations including at-risk youth, battered women, the elderly, people with disabilities, populations with special needs and more.
Israel’s labor market also experienced substantial disruption during the crisis. The careful ongoing work JDC has been doing to create pathways for Haredi men to enter Israel’s workforce faced significant challenges as social distancing measures took effect, limiting in-person gatherings. In response, JDC migrated many of these efforts to a digital platform tailored to a population that generally avoids the internet and on-line encounters. Deploying Federation funds to team up with the government, JDC adapted existing employment programs to continue to advance this innovative work. Watch this short video about one initiative that helps members of Israel’s Haredi community, especially hard hit by the pandemic, escape poverty by entering the workforce.
Maintaining Communal Infrastructure Overseas
North American Jewry has come out in full force to support overseas communities as well. The COVID-19 Loan Fund for Communities in Crisis, established by the Jewish Agency with financial support from Jewish Federations, helps Jewish institutions around the world bridge immediate gaps in cash flow due to the pandemic. The fund serves as a major lifeline for hard-hit communities like the world’s oldest Diaspora Jewish community. Ruth Dureghello, President of the Jewish community in Rome, describes how a “difficult and sad situation has become a ray of light and a testament to the endless solidarity of the Jewish people.”
The coronavirus crisis also brought into sharp relief some of the inherent challenges already present in many communities. A key strategy of JDC’s efforts to help rebuild Jewish communities in the FSU is to reinstate a culture of volunteerism that the Soviet Union had destroyed. Their hard work pre-Covid is reaping tremendous benefits during the crisis, with over 6,000 volunteers deployed to help community members. 20 year old Igor smiles as he declares that “helping others is everyone’s responsibility.”
The past twelve months have been a test of every Federation’s ability to respond, and the level of deep commitment both locally and overseas is truly inspiring. This is one of those moments that give meaning to our belief in the power of the collective.
Mark Your Calendars
Passover is a time for reflection, and at this seder many of us will be thinking of all the incredible work Federation has made possible through your support the past year. Join our partners at JDC on March 31 at 12pm ET for a virtual Passover event, celebrating a year of impact in Ukraine, Poland, Israel, and beyond. Read more and register here.
There is still more time to explore religious diversity in Israel through our Forward Focus series. The two remaining session are scheduled for March 18 and 25 – both at 12 PM ET. We will hear from experts, religious leaders, policy makers and changemakers who will take us on deep dives into the diversity of Jewish life in Israel and our role in it. Learn more on Jewish Together.
In Case You Missed It
The decision handed down by Israel’s Supreme Court which for the first time recognized non-Orthodox conversions undertaken in Israel for the purposes of determining eligibility for citizenship, took place just weeks before Israel heads to the polls. In this webinar recording we dive into what proceeded this event and what it may mean for the future.
Two weeks ago a group of 280 Olim (new immigrants) from Ethiopia arrived at Ben Gurion Airport to be greeted by several Jewish Federation representatives, celebrating the Federation system’s longstanding support of Aliyah, in partnership with the Jewish Agency. Read this moving reflection by Kim Salzman, Israel and Overseas Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
The Israel Democracy Institute & JTA recently launched a 4-part Zoom series called The Issues at Stake in Israel’s 2021 Elections. Catch up on the sessions you missed below:
- How Haredim are Changing Israel: How is the growing size and political power of Israel’s Haredi population transforming the country?
- Israel's Covid Lessons: The coronavirus pandemic laid bare some critical Israeli strengths and weaknesses. What’s the country’s path forward now?
- Why does Bibi Keep Winning, and Whatever Happened to the Israeli Left? With four elections in just two years, is there a way out of Israel’s political stalemate?
Register here for the fourth session of the series Israel’s Arab Citizens at a Crossroads, on March 17th at 12pm ET.