Recently several of our community’s congregations have reminded us that while their operations may have ceased in their buildings due to the pandemic, their synagogues never closed. We applaud our Greater New Haven congregations for continuing to support and serve their members.
The Jewish Federation, Foundation & JCC also never closed. We ceased our physical operations on March 13, 2020 and immediately shifted into the virtual space, recreating almost every aspect of our diverse offerings online. In addition to maintaining our high-quality programs, we mounted a community hotline and immediately began an outreach campaign determined to contact every household in our Federation database with the goal to check in and see how folks are doing and inquire how we could help.
As expected, as the weeks passed, the needs grew and our cadre of dedicated volunteers and staff endeavored to help in any way possible by lending a supportive ear, running errands, grocery shopping, helping with technology or referring people in need to Jewish Family Service. Our calls will continue as we navigate through this challenging time. We care deeply about every member of the Greater New Haven community and feel fortunate that the virus gave us the opportunity to demonstrate our caring with action.
At the start of the crisis, the Jewish Foundation and Jewish Federation came together to create the COVID-19 Response/Maimonides Fund which has raised more than $277,000 from Foundation and Federation unrestricted funds and caring community members which is supporting the most urgent human needs in our community through grants to The Towers, Jewish Family Service, JCARR, and synagogues. We expect the needs to continue to rise and are committed to raising whatever funds are necessary to meet them.
Responding to the critical need for PPE, the Jewish Federation partnered with local philanthropists, Bob & Amy Stefanowski to create Masks for Heroes and Masks for CT, grassroots effort that has distributed more than 1,000,000 masks across the state to first responders, healthcare workers, nursing homes, assisted livings, senior centers, prisons, fire, police, EMTs, hospitals, vulnerable populations, and individual citizens through drive-through and walk-up distribution events.
Fortunately, our state has been successful in efforts to flatten the curve and is now emerging into the first phase of reopening. A Re-Entry Task Force was initiated by Jewish Federation President Jeffrey Hoos and JCC President Jeffrey Sklarz to ensure that the health and safety of the community would be paramount as we considered re-opening. A Steering Committee and several Sub-Committees were formed to delve deeply into key program areas: Operations/Facilities/Security, Camp, Early Childhood, Fitness, Recreation, Finance, and Marketing. Since the inception of the Task Force, many volunteers have spent countless hours learning from the State of Connecticut, CDC, OSHA, the Office of Early Childhood, the American Camping Association, Jewish Federations of North America, Jewish Community Centers Association and numerous local medical professionals and they will continue to seek guidance from these organizations as well as from sister communities across North America.
The Task Force will continue to have much work to do as it guides our community. The reopening will happen in phases with parts of our operations only opening when critical requirements are met to ensure proper social distancing, disinfection, and safe operations. Significant investments will be made to improve air filtration, reduce the need to touch faucets and doors, create proper pathways with signage to safely traverse the corridors, and enable online/app registration to reserve activity appointments. (pool lane, fitness equipment, etc.)
Happily, the first area to open is JCC Day Camps. Our beautiful wooded campus offers the perfect setting to provide our kids with a happy summer; although the structure will be very different than years past. Camp will open on June 22 without transportation or field trips and campers will be required to remain in their bunks of no more than 10 campers throughout the day. Camp will offer plenty of recreation, fun, and fresh air with swimming in the completely resurfaced swimming pool.
As the weeks progress, the committee hopes to open more areas with the goal of opening aquatics on June 29 followed by limited fitness activities on July 6. We are in the process of developing a special color-coded system to assist the community in understanding what will be open in each phase along with FAQs that will answer any questions regarding overall and department operations.
We remain optimistic about the future. As we open more programs for in-person participation, we will continue our robust online offerings, many of which we expect to continue in the post-COVID world for maximum accessibility.
With all of our exciting momentum toward the safe reopening of our community building and campus, we understand that the situation is fluid and that we must remain nimble as we encounter whatever changes or challenges lie ahead. We are making contingency plans (and contingency plans for our contingency plans) should the virus surge again or an outbreak occur. We ask that our community demonstrates patience and understanding as we navigate these unknown waters together.
I remain in awe of our incredibly devoted team of professionals and volunteers who have once again responded to an incredible challenge with commitment, passion, and devotion. We continue to our mantra of making lemonade from lemons and we will once again overcome any obstacles before us to bounce back stronger than ever.
As always, I am available to hear your thoughts, questions, or concerns. Feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With my very best for your strength and good health,