Dear friends,

Over Passover I've been reading The Plague, by the French novelist Albert Camus. Penned in 1947, it describes an epidemic, similar to our current reality, that swiftly overtakes a port city in the then French colony of Algeria. Interpreted by many as political allegory, on a literal level its vivid depiction of incompetence, helplessness, and chaos resonate strongly today, as do the diverse and sometimes heroic ways in which the protagonists overcome their own limitations to respond.

It's a fitting read, not only in this COVID-19 environment but also specifically during the Passover holiday and the period now leading up to Shavuot. In virtually every facet of our lives today - personal, economic, social - there is a sense of disorder. The Passover Seder reminds us that despite the chaos and deprivation that accompanied slavery, the plagues, and the subsequent exodus, there is a divine order to the world and specifically to the fate of the Jewish people. Indeed, the Hebrew word seder means order.

A related lesson is that the heroic acts of individuals make all the difference, especially in times of disorder. Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Nachshon - all had an indispensable and unique role to play in overcoming their own challenges and limitations and delivering the Israelites to freedom.

In the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot there is a process of personal spiritual growth that also reinforces the notion of order and individual empowerment. Known as Sefirat HaOmer, the counting of the Omer, the period mirrors the Israelites' journey from slavery to Mount Sinai and it reminds us, each day, that we are capable of continual spiritual growth and freedom of choice.

In this most challenging time, each of us chooses our reality and has the ability - perhaps now more than ever - to impact those around us in the most profound ways. And as you will read below, together our community is rising to the occasion.

Shabbat Shalom.

David Waren
President and CEO
Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford

#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

Temple Sinai of Newington broadcast a virtual Passover Seder from Rabbi Bennett's home. Our goal during this difficult time is to have a positive impact on as many people as we can, and more than 1,500 people participated in our Seder via Zoom and Facebook Live! A picture of our service even made its way into a "60 Minutes" segment about mental health during the pandemic. A participant from Illinois summed up the impact perfectly: "I found your Seder by accident and haven't participated in one since my dad died. You lifted my spirits." Everyone is welcome to join us on Friday nights at 6 p.m. for online services. For the Zoom link, please contact Temple Sinai at 860.561.1055 or You can view streaming services on Facebook Live by visiting our Facebook page
COVID-19: How Federation Is Helping
  • In just over 3 weeks, the Jewish Hartford Rapid Relief and Recovery Fund, established by the Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation, has received a total of $813,771 from 298 gifts. 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.
  • Applications for financial assistance are coming in from community members in need, and the Fund's Grantmaking Committee is in the process of reviewing them. Individuals and families can apply through the online Get Help form or by speaking with a local rabbi. Local Jewish agencies and synagogues are working with liaisons to assess their organizational needs; to learn more about financial assistance for Jewish nonprofits, contact Laura Zimmerman at the Federation or Michael Elfenbaum at the Jewish Community Foundation. 
  • On Tuesday, lay and professional volunteers from the Federation, the Jewish Community Foundation, and Jewish Family Services delivered kosher for Passover meals and groceries to 125 households throughout Greater Hartford. Each household received enough frozen dinners to complete Passover. One recipient said, "I've lived 27 years in Hartford through all kinds of times and this is the first time [the community] has come right to my home to help me. I think it's wonderful!" David Waren of the Federation and Jacob Schreiber of the Foundation were interviewed by NBC Connecticut, Eyewitness News 3, and FOX 61 about the food delivery effort. If you or someone you know needs food, click here to submit a request.
  • Volunteers also delivered 70+ Dignity Packs to households in need across Greater Hartford on Tuesday, bringing the total weekly distribution to almost 150 households. Each Dignity Pack contains a month's worth of soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and a toothbrush, as well as menstrual hygiene products when requested. Home delivery is made possible by your contributions to the Jewish Hartford Rapid Relief and Recovery Fund; Dignity Packs are provided by Dignity GrowsTM, an initiative of Federation's Women of Impact. If you or someone you know is in need of toiletries or menstrual hygiene products, click here to submit a request.
  • Twenty community volunteers are placing reassurance phone calls to dozens of local, homebound seniors each week to help alleviate social isolation. An additional 40 volunteers have placed one-time "wellness check" phone calls to over 200 community members. This volunteer effort is coordinated by Federation staff.
  • The Association of Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Hartford (AJC), part of our Federation, worked with the Greater Hartford Rabbinical Association and other organizations to revise our community's protocols for cemeteries, burials, and funerals. Read the AJC cemetery and burial protocol here and the Rabbinical Association funeral protocol here.
  • Yesterday it was announced that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) had exhausted the original $349 billion allocated in the CARES Act. The Jewish Community Relations Council encourages you to ask your members of Congress to pass supplemental appropriations to ensure that Jewish nonprofit organizations receive the financial assistance they need to stay solvent in these challenging times. Click here for contact information and here for a sample phone script, email, and social media post.