JDC Responds to Coronavirus Pandemic, Addressing Humanitarian Crisis and Jewish Community Needs

Elderly Israelis using videoconference chat to stem their loneliness during the 2014 Gaza war, a JDC concept that will likely be deployed again to help keep seniors feeling connected, and part of a community, during the coronavirus crisis.

In response to the acute humanitarian needs emerging from COVID-19 pandemic, JDC is ensuring the safe provision of supplemental food, medicines, medical care, hygiene supplies and training, as well as the deployment of programs to battle loneliness and retrain the unemployed. Given the increasing and widespread toll of social-isolation on Jewish communities, JDC is also creating virtual spaces for community resilience-building, Jewish education, culture, and leadership training to provide the resources needed to sustain Jewish life.

JDC’s global coronavirus intervention – being carried our in partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America as well as funding partners, foundations, and individual donors – includes:

  • In the former Soviet Union, response options will include distribution of supplemental emergency medicine, medical care, and food for the poorest elderly and children as well as the provision of personal hygiene gear, private transportation, and communications equipment for homecare workers and staff to be able to safely aid clients in remote locations. The organization is also deploying professional support to Jewish institutions for managing an emergency routine, and rolling-out online programming and materials for Jewish activities, including virtual Passover seders, Shabbat meals, and JCC events. Small grants are being awarded to community-run initiatives that mobilize volunteers to stem loneliness among the elderly, and for local community engagement. JDC’s Active Jewish Teens, the region’s largest Jewish teen network connecting more than 3,200 Jewish teens in 60 cities, has created an online platform for participants to continue their annual calendar of events, including lectures and holiday celebrations. AJT is a partnership with the Genesis Philanthropy Group and BBYO. 
  • In Israel, transforming services in partnership with the Israeli government and NGO sector, to address the growing needs of the most vulnerable groups, including: the elderly, people with disabilities, youth and families at risk, and underserved populations. This includes delivering essential care services and meals in 180 locations for two months for quarantined and homebound elderly; training and coordinating volunteers in over 50 locations to provide vital services, including addressing loneliness, to vulnerable homebound populations. Creating and disseminating online services, videos, and infographics in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, and Amharic providing guidelines, best-practices, and other vital information for over 1 million beneficiaries; and producing skill-building content, highlighting alternative employment opportunities and adapting materials for distance learning for people who have lost, or are about to lose, their jobs.
  • In Europe, Asia, and North Africa, JDC is working through our community partners to provide special precautions for services to the elderly, and throughout the entire region, volunteers are being recruited, hotlines are being launched, and services are being adapted for the new reality. From JDC’s coronavirus response appeal, JDC will assist Jewish communities to provide basic food packages for families in need as well as supplementary medicine for the elderly as the economic toll of the crisis develops and, community members are turning to welfare organizations as they face the looming threat of poverty. In addition, JDC is focusing on leveraging the resilience capacities of communities, supporting their leadership and focusing on assessing emerging needs.
  • In Latin America, JDC is working in Argentina to provide food, medicine and monetary assistance to the neediest elderly Jews, people with chronic diseases, and families with children at risk. In Cuba, where the regular communal Shabbat dinner has been suspended, Shabbat food has safely been distributed to local community members at home. Additionally, JDC convened a Zoom call with an expert on nursing homes in which 47 representatives from Jewish nursing homes across Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico participated. They are already engaged on a very active JDC-created Whatsapp group to share elder care best practices in the face of the pandemic. 
  • In place of in-person gatherings, trips and events, JDC Entwine, the organization’s young adult platform has quickly mobilized virtual programming including: global briefings with JDC experts on responses to global crises, spotlights on how young professionals in global communities are building community abroad, and virtual gatherings, such as book clubs and giving circles to help bring participants together to engage with global Jewish issues. 
  • In Ethiopia, JDC is training key organizations and institutions in the life-saving practices of hand washing, proper hygiene, and social distancing while establishing hand washing and hand sanitizer stations in areas with limited or no access to clean water and soap. JDC is equipping two central health facilities in Addis Ababa with basic materials for ensuring the safety of its medical personnel in dealing with the virus.