2-day-old local relief fund has raised $2.7 million

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A Jewish community COVID-19 response fund launched on Wednesday has received pledges of $2.7 million toward a $5 million goal.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington started the fund to alleviate the needs of local Jewish agencies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Gil Preuss, Federation CEO. The sum raised includes $500,000 from the Federation’s emergency reserve.


The Federation is in contact with service organizations and first-line responders such as Jewish Social Service Agency, Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington, Yad Yehuda of Greater Washington and Hebrew Free Loan Association of Greater Washington to identify their clients’ needs, he said.

These organizations will receive the funds on a rolling basis, with some more immediate needs prioritized, he said.

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“We’re working closely with them to understand what types of services people are reaching out for,” said Preuss.

In addition to meeting the Jewish community’s temporary needs, Preuss hopes the response fund can ensure the survival of the institutions themselves. Preuss noted that area Jewish community centers and preschools will not have an income while they are closed, yet their expenses remain.


Plans for the fund began Monday, after area schools closed, Preuss said. By Wednesday, it became clear that community institutions would be affected, so the Federation started to reach out to its major donors.

The Federation announced the fund on Thursday. Preuss said his agency will use email, social media and personal connections to solicit additional funds.

He said he hopes the $2 trillion federal stimulus package and state resources will also aid initiatives to “keep our community vibrant.”

He said a board meeting today also gave him cause for hope.

“We had more people join our board Zoom than have joined in the last couple years. People are engaged, people care, people know they have to do something,” said Preuss.

He said the community is pulling together, even as it is prohibited from meeting in person.

“I am seeing incredible ingenuity and creativity in people looking for spiritual ways to engage, or the way classes are being taught in radical ways, and all the content online. Even in the midst of this crisis I’m finding the community incredibly close and collaborative and hopeful for the future.”

While he works 11-hour days in his home office, Preuss said he finds himself cooking and eating with his family more often.

“Life continues. It’s different, but in certain ways it’s also brought us together.”

 

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