Your donations to our Annual Campaign supported our community during a year of crisis
By Amy Lindner-Lesser / President, Jewish Federation of the Berkshires
The year 2020 has both flown and crept by at the same time. If you are like me, you probably could not say goodbye to 2020 fast enough. Yet as I take a moment to reflect on this past year, I have a deep sense of gratitude and awe for the inspiring work of our community and our Federation.
I am so proud of the Federation volunteers and staff for all they have done during the pandemic. Our programming and outreach remain dynamic and diverse. Our social services and support programs have never been more necessary to ensure the health and care of the most vulnerable in our community, both physically and mentally. Our PJ Library program continues to help overwhelmed families find moments of fun and connection.
I know we are all anxiously waiting for our turns to be vaccinated over the next few months. Meanwhile, our work continues. Please know that we at the Federation never take you for granted. We understand the struggles you are facing. Many have lost jobs; others have lost loved ones. Each of us is suffering from various forms of loneliness. Yet, when we see each other virtually, the smiles are broad, and when we speak on the phone or bump into each other at the supermarket (masked and 6 feet apart, of course), the conversation is authentic. There is a real sense of gratitude that we are in this together as a community, and there is no doubt that we are resilient. If I have learned anything from these past months, it is not to take anyone or any moment for granted.
The generosity of this community continues to amaze me. As the pandemic started, you helped us raise over $54,000 in COVID-19 relief. We expended nearly $46,000 thus far on emergency grants for food, rent, utilities, and burial support for individuals in our Jewish community. We also were able to provide additional grants to Berkshire food pantries and other organizations to support critical needs of our friends and neighbors across the region.
Our 2020 campaign got off to a slow start, but so many of you stepped forward to continue your annual gifts, to make new gifts, and to increase your gifts. Together we raised over $930,000! An amazing feat when you consider the year we all have had. In addition to supporting our ongoing programs and services, this success has allowed us to expand our social service hours, strengthen our volunteer and care supports, and expand our engagement work as more people join the Berkshire Jewish community.
The Federation board recently voted to set aside $35,000 towards emergency relief grants and Hebrew free loans in the coming year and create an unrestricted reserve fund to allow more flexibility in responding to emergency needs in the future. None of us could have imagined such a thing as this pandemic, but having gone through the past ten months, we know that it is essential to prepare better for the future.
I want to thank the Federation’s board of directors for their ongoing leadership during this time. Also, special thanks to Elisa Schindler Frankel and Larry Frankel, who headed up our major gifts campaign, and to our Development Committee members: Natalie Matus, Jane Karlin, Sandi Rubin, and Elisa Schindler Frankel, who have done a wonderful job guiding our campaign efforts.
I also want to thank Dara Kaufman and the entire Federation staff. They have risen to the challenges brought on by the pandemic and work day-in and day-out, continuing to create the programs and opportunities that you, our friends and donors, are proud to invest in.
In the next few weeks, our Allocations Committee will be meeting to review additional needs in our religious schools, summer camp scholarships, and ways to support vulnerable Jews in need in Israel and around the world. They will wrestle with difficult decisions on how we can best do our part in Tikkun Olam, repairing the world around us.
What we do could not happen without each of you, our dedicated donors and volunteers. In the middle of so much uncertainty, you have brought steady connection and unwavering support to the Jewish community. Thank you for caring so deeply for one another and our community.