Business as Usual?

I keep hearing that during these unprecedented times, it’s not business as usual.  I will argue that for the Jewish Federation, it is totally business as usual, because assessing and responding to the needs of our community is our business.  Sure, the needs have changed in a previously unimaginable way, but our mission to pivot and respond has not.

People don’t like to talk about infrastructure.  Over the past few years the word’s connotation has really taken a negative turn as people question the necessity.  But, it is precisely during times of crisis that we need and rely on that infrastructure.  Sure, the news reports on all of those wonderful grassroots efforts of neighbors helping neighbors, but it takes a strong organization with a strong base and a solid reputation to organize community-wide support services.  My colleagues like to say, “Jewish Federations were there on September 11th, because we were there on September 10th.”   

hanging neon sign that says openOur community is made up of a spectrum of people, from those who need our help to those who can help.  While we have always provided the bridge between the ends of the spectrum, we’ve managed to earn the reputation of focusing our attention on those with the resources to help, with our helping done discreetly in silence.    That needs to change today.  Our priority today is to identify everyone in the community who needs our help.  Absolutely no seniors should be leaving their home and we need to get them food.  We have dozens of volunteers helping.  We have a “meals on wheels” program ready to go.   We have Passover Seders in a Box ready to be ordered and delivered.  Thank you to our partners, Jewish Family Services, Shalom Food Pantry, Albany County Department of Aging, Price Chopper Kosher Store, and the Vaad Hakashruth.   I’ve asked most of Federation’s staff to call as many people as they can to see how people are and what they might need.   This has been a huge undertaking that could not be accomplished without our infrastructure.  

Friends, as an aside, this is not a time to be proud.  Some of our seniors do not want the stigma associated with asking for help.  No.  We need them to stay home.  If it will make them feel better to offer a contribution or pay for the service, fine, but we need seniors staying home.  

Federation’s board met last night.  I can’t remember the last time so many board members attended a meeting.  I guess that no one had a conflict.  As is their fiduciary responsibility, “Rob,” they asked, “Is there a plan to pay for this project.”  “No.” I replied.  “We have an emergency situation.  First we feed people.”  

So, as large organizations with infrastructure are wont to do, they formed a subcommittee to start addressing the fundraising need.  It is time to connect with those who can help, while being sensitive that the financial situations have changed and the pool of people on that side of the spectrum has likely shrunk.  As I mentioned last week, the fundraising will begin soon.  Anyone wishing to preempt is welcome to reach out to me directly or visit our website.


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