When we launched UJA’s Emergency Campaign for Community Resilience in response to the COVID-19 crisis, we said it was focused on two crucial promises that reflect our core values as a community:
- No vulnerable Jew in our city should be denied the help they need due to a lack of community resources; and
- No Jewish child or teen should be cut off from essential Jewish programs due to the financial crisis.
It is only possible to make these commitments thanks to our generous volunteers and donors. With the support of the community, we are ensuring our partners at the forefront of this challenge don’t have to worry about stable funding. Instead, they can focus on the vital work of helping community members who rely on their essential services.
Here are three key developments since our last update:
- Supporting our community’s most vulnerable Our immediate focus has been to help those in our community who were already at risk, through our allocations to our social agencies and emergency grants we made early in the pandemic. For the one in eight Jews in our city who struggled with poverty before this crisis, the situation over the past few months has become more acute. As just one example, there has been a 55% increase in the number of community members needing Kosher Meals on Wheels. At the same time, we are seeing early signs of the growing needs of community members who are newly vulnerable due to layoffs and business closures. This includes a 200% rise in community members seeking help to find a job and an 80% increase in requests for financial assistance from Jewish families in crisis. We project a significant rise in these numbers as temporary government assistance programs start to phase out in the coming months. In order to be ready as a community to meet these surging needs, UJA and our agencies recognize the importance of working together in an unprecedented way. No one agency or program can meet this challenge alone. This is why we are bringing together our agencies for an innovative and collaborative approach that will ensure wraparound services are available, accessible, and impactful for those in need. Through it all, we are deeply grateful for the exceptional dedication of our community’s front-line workers, who are a lifeline for our most vulnerable.
- Maintaining access to essential Jewish identity-building experiences Just as we are taking an innovative approach to helping at-risk community members, so too are we developing creative solutions to ensure that no Jewish child has to withdraw from essential Jewish experiences due to the pandemic. The first test of this is in our day school system. Many families in difficult financial situations are now making decisions about the upcoming school year. This is why we recently unveiled two new initiatives – an interest-free loan and emergency tuition relief – to help day school families in need, on top of our regular tuition assistance for day and supplementary school students. Through simplified, online applications, we are making this process as user-friendly as possible for community members. Using this as a model, we are preparing similar financial relief programs to keep families connected to supplementary school and – looking ahead to next summer – Jewish overnight camp. In addition to supporting families in need, this will help stabilize important Jewish institutions by keeping enrollment numbers up. So too are we working closely with our JCCs to ensure they emerge resilient from this crisis. As the single biggest touchpoint for Jewish life in the GTA, our three JCCs connect with 65,000 community members every year. Like our schools and camps, they have done an outstanding job of shifting to virtual programs with the suspension of in-person activities. They are now in advanced preparations for a reopening of on-site facilities, as the province eases physical distancing restrictions. This will begin with the reopening of day cares on our Jewish community campuses in early July, followed by a future return to in-person Jewish programming and fitness activities. Like our schools and camps, our JCCs play a vital role in the health and wellbeing of community members. They have been able to focus on adapting to the new realities of COVID-19, confident in the knowledge that UJA’s donors are here as a constant source of strength and stability.
- Building momentum in our Emergency Campaign for Community Resilience We have seen more than 2,400 community members contribute a collective total of more than $54 Million – and these numbers are growing every day. This is a remarkable achievement, unprecedented in the history of the Toronto Jewish community. There is still a distance to go to meet the $85 Million in our community’s projected needs for this year. But we are grateful to our donors who have come together to meet this challenge in an extraordinary way.