Federation Board member and Baronet Coffee President Bruce Goldsmith loads a vehicle with donated coffee for COVID-19 food relief.

Friends: Many of us have found our roles shifting in response to the COVID-19 crisis. For my colleague Heather Fiedler and Federation's Leadership, Education and Engagement team, that meant pivoting to address a spiking community need for kosher and kosher for Passover food. In this week's Shabbat message, Heather shares some insight into this work and its relationship to our Jewish values. I hope you find her message as inspiring as I do. Shabbat Shalom. - David

When we think of building houses or projects or programs, we like to have a blueprint -something to guide us and something that we can adapt as we run into obstacles or opportunities. In this week's double Torah portion, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, we find such a blueprint. In the middle parasha of the middle book of the Torah, we are told, "You should be holy because I, Adonai, Your G-d, is holy." (Leviticus 19:2) We are commanded to elevate our lives and actions to reflect the holiness, the kedusha, demonstrated by G-d. This is no small task. But within the 147 verses of Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, we are provided a blueprint for our behavior.

Directly following Leviticus 19:2, the Torah lists the ways in which we are expected to act. In the middle of this chapter we find the Golden Rule: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Rashi, the 11th-century French Talmudic commentator, tells us that this is the most important mitzvah of all. And Malbim, a 19th-century commentator, says the verse's true meaning is that we should want for our friends what we want for ourselves.

Over the past few weeks, as the Federation and Jewish Community Foundation have worked to supply those in need with food, we have thought long and hard about how to acquire the "right" food: Is there enough protein? Fresh produce? Can we add something special to the bags to make isolation a little more bearable? 

The team members involved in this effort have truly elevated their actions to reflect this important mitzvah, ensuring that each recipient received food in a dignified manner. Volunteers made phone calls to and delivered food to the homes of the homebound. Community businesses like Baronet Coffee, PKT Development, New England Industrial Supply LLC, and The Crown Market donated goods to go into the bags. And community partners like Jewish Family Services and the Mandell JCC helped in ways that are too numerous to count.

Our small "food team" is proud to have been able to help provide the same things for our neighbors that we would want for ourselves. It is in these ways that we elevate our behavior and demonstrate what kind of community we are.

Shabbat Shalom.

Heather

Heather Rubin Fiedler
Vice President, Jewish Education and Leadership
Director, Jewish Leadership Academy
#JewishTogether: Community Stories of COVID-19 Response

Each Friday, we'll share an update from a local Jewish agency, school or synagogue about how they are making a difference during COVID-19. Submissions are scheduled on a first come, first served basis. To learn more, contact Allie Egan-Sherry at aegansherry@jewishhartford.org.

A family gathers around the kitchen table - parents and kids - as they make their wellness call to a senior they've never met before. "Hello," the youngest says. "We're calling from Congregation Beth Israel and just wanted to check in and say hello." The voice on the other end answers by thanking them for calling. After schmoozing a while, they've learned a little about each other and both feel just a little less isolated. These conversations are happening over and over again through Congregation Beth Israel's Phone Buddy program, an effort to reduce the sense of isolation caused by social distancing as well as strengthen the bonds that unite us. To learn more, visit the Congregation Beth Israel website, call 860.233.8215, or email BethIsrael@cbict.org.
COVID-19: How Federation Is Helping
  • In its first month, the Jewish Hartford Rapid Relief and Recovery Fund has received a total of $859,461 from 378 gifts. Established by the Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation, the Fund supports several of the initiatives listed below - including financial assistance, kosher food delivery, Dignity Pack delivery, and wellness checks and reassurance calls - as well as counseling services for people in crisis through our partners at Jewish Family Services. Contributions to the Fund are not intended to replace your regular support for our local Jewish organizations. We are tremendously grateful for any support you are able to provide. Please click here to donate.
  • The Fund has already provided many households with emergency financial support. Examples include a local woman who lost her job and couldn't support herself and her elderly father, a young entrepreneur whose business was deemed non-essential, a woman who needed help to afford a Jewish burial for her mother, and a community member who needed help with medical expenses. More applications are coming in all the time. Click here to apply for assistance.

    Quote_ _Thank you so much for helping my family and myself give my mother her last wish _a Jewish funeral_. The Jewish community has been amazing._
  • One hundred thirty-seven households in 19 towns, including homebound seniors and Holocaust survivors, have received 550 bags of kosher groceries and 2,500 prepared kosher meals delivered directly to their homes. Click here to request kosher food deliveries.
     
  • Almost 150 Dignity Packs of toiletries and menstrual hygiene products have been delivered to households in need across our region. Each contains a month's worth of soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and a toothbrush, as well as menstrual hygiene products upon request. They are provided by Dignity GrowsTM, an initiative of Federation's Women of Impact.  Click here to request a Dignity Pack delivery.
     
  • The Fund will provide emergency operating support for local Jewish institutions that have been affected by the pandemic and the related economic downturn. Institutions and their Fund liaisons are putting the finishing touches on needs assessments, which are due to the Fund's Grantmaking Committee on May 5. To learn more, contact  Laura Zimmerman  at the Federation or  Michael Elfenbaum  at the Jewish Community Foundation.
     
  • The Fund will also support counseling for community members in crisis, through our partners at Jewish Family Services. It will support needs like grief counseling for a local man who recently lost his mother to COVID-19, therapy for a local family whose child has become very fearful due to the pandemic, and compassionate care for a single mom and medical professional who has just lost a coworker to COVID-19.
     
  • Dozens of homebound seniors are receiving weekly reassurance phone calls from volunteers to help them feel less isolated - and an additional 250 community members have received a phone call to make sure that they're okay. This volunteer effort is coordinated by Federation staff.
Stay (Virtually) Connected

Federation is pleased to present or co-sponsor the following upcoming virtual events. By the way, don't forget to check the  virtual community calendar for a wide variety of Jewish programs presented by local and national organizations.