Do not quit now! On the finish and in the midst of this tunnel is mild.

Everyone is pretty tired of looking at screens, whether we’re watching TV, going to school, or going online with friends. Between winter weather and social distancing guidelines, many Pittsburghers may feel trapped in their own homes. As the number of COVID-19 cases rose this winter and hospitals stressed their limits, it became easy to feel discouraged. In this dark time I want to remind you of all the people who are helping and why we cannot give up now.

Many have heard the Jewish Federation leadership and volunteers speak over the years about the importance of the Federation’s fellowship campaign in addressing critical needs in our community. Even in normal times, the campaign helps people faced with food insecurity. The campaign gives seniors the support they need to live safe, dignified lives in connection with the Jewish community. The campaign helps instill Jewish values ​​and meaningfulness in young adults by connecting them to Jewish life in ways that fulfill them personally. The campaign enables the Federation to work towards the full inclusion of people with disabilities, marginalized communities, and others who, without support, could not fully participate in Jewish Pittsburgh.

By donating together, the community campaign enables donors to help more people. For example, only last year the campaign funded the Federation Jewish Community Security Team, and that team received a new community security grant that will add much-needed strength to synagogue and Jewish facility security. As a result of the campaign, the Jewish Federation is coordinating the efforts of the Jewish authorities to make care better and more efficient.

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When the pandemic broke worldwide almost a year ago, those needs that the Jewish Federation’s donors supported did not go away. On the contrary, COVID-19 and the economic challenges it posed exacerbated many of the needs that Jewish Pittsburgh already had.

Using our community campaign as a foundation, the Jewish Federation was able to redirect dollars from personal programs that had been canceled to COVID relief. Because of the strength of the campaign, some generous donors made additional one-time commitments that enabled the Jewish Federation to donate more than $ 7.5 million to COVID-19 relief efforts since April 2020. This money was used to meet brand new health and wellness needs, as well as emergency funding and food insecurity, physical space requirements for adequate social distancing, capacity building with the Jewish agencies on the front lines and preserving Jewish identity for people isolated from Jewish life are.

The effects of these dollars are not just theoretical. We hear from real people every week how helping the Jewish Federation has made their lives better.

Take Ruth Skeegan, for example. As a resident of the Jewish Association on Aging, she faced a challenging time as COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. According to a December 2020 report by NBC News, 39% of COVID-19 deaths nationwide occurred in nursing homes. Funding from the Jewish Federation enabled JAA to equip its employees with personal protective equipment, install a state-of-the-art air filtration system, and hire the additional staff necessary to keep Ruth alive and to keep in touch with her daughter Carol. Ruth visits Carol practically every day and even celebrated her 100th birthday with a virtual party hosted by JAA staff.

Ruth is only one of tens of thousands of Pittsburgh residents whose lives have been touched by Jewish Federation donors. People like Kevin, a mostly non-verbal man with intellectual disabilities in group care, who received the technology he needed to make virtual family visits while living in his Jewish Residential Services-supported group care home. Visiting the Jewish Family and Community Services’ Squirrel Hill Food Pantry for the first time in their lives, people like Ron and Julie found caring staff willing to connect them with the help they needed. People like Eli and Tahlia, students who have found new ways to connect virtually to Jewish life on campus through Edward and Rose Berman Hillel’s Jewish University Center.

Enough great things are happening in Pittsburgh to fill an entire issue of this newspaper. If you feel defeated, if your ears are sore from wearing masks, or if you just wish you could eat at your favorite restaurant – you are not alone. Our community is stronger together, and each Jewish organization has found innovative ways to continue providing, and in some cases, improving services and programs.

The next time you think, “What’s the point?” Remember Ruth who, thanks to the generosity of others, celebrated her 100th birthday with the family. Keep practicing social distancing. Order to take away at a local restaurant. Please support the Jewish Federation’s community campaign so that we can continue to save lives. PJC

Jeffrey Finkelstein is President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

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