Seventy Days in a Pandemic…Hundreds of Lessons

If not now, when? And if not us, who?

At Leichtag Foundation, these questions from our Jewish texts have long driven and compelled us.

We aim to act with urgency in response to pressing needs in the communities we support. We try never to sacrifice progress for the perfect. Sometimes this means experimenting with many strategies and tactics at once.

With the onset of COVID-19 and its devastating rippling effects on our neighbors, communities and the organizations that serve us, this rung more true than ever.

We reflect on our first steps, and most importantly, the bold actions of our hardworking partners in order to move forward and sustain an urgent, intentional response for the long haul. The initial sprint must propel us for the marathon ahead.

Phase One Response

First, we listened. We immediately checked in with our own grantees to see what they needed in the first confusing days. We collected data from across the social sector to deeply understand frontline observations and rapid responses. We cried, reflected and even smiled hearing the stories of our elders, suddenly unemployed individuals and families and even smiled through our tears, moved by the helpers who have stepped forward to care for those most in need.

Next, the Foundation designated more than $400,000 in rapid-response emergency support to organizations providing direct services for the most vulnerable populations in the Jewish and North County San Diego communities, and in Jerusalem. This includes a micro-grant program facilitated through the Jerusalem Model enabling civil society activists to provide humanitarian support to their communities.

We felt that such sweeping effects and suffering would benefit from coordinated and streamlined responses to leverage even more giving and save precious nonprofit time. Leichtag Foundation collaborated to create two regional collaborative funds, the San Diego Jewish Community COVID-19 Emergency Fund and the North County COVID-19 Response Fund. The Foundation’s emergency support includes contributions to these funds.

The Foundation also accelerated a number of grant payments to existing grantees in San Diego and Jerusalem. These grants were redirected to support organizations’ general operating needs.

In accordance with the Foundation’s commitment to providing additional capacity building support to grantees, our staff has provided four workshops on how to adapt fundraising practices during this challenging time and provided technical assistance in applying for Paycheck Protection Program loans and other supplemental resources. We’ve been privileged to engage in scores of coaching conversations with thoughtful leaders about how they are approaching the emergency.

San Diego Jewish Community COVID-19 Emergency Fund Impact

The Jewish Federation of San Diego County, Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego and Leichtag Foundation established the San Diego Jewish Community COVID-19 Emergency Fund to support those who are most vulnerable and impacted in San Diego’s Jewish community. To date, the Fund has administered interest-free loans to 11 nonprofits and made grants to organizations that distribute individual assistance to households in immediate need of food, medicine, employment-related support, and other essentials.

Over 200 generous donors have contributed to the Fund, committing more than $2.1 million. Updates on this Fund’s activities and solutions in the community are posted regularly here.

North County COVID-19 Response Fund Impact

The Coastal Community Foundation, Leichtag Foundation and Rancho Santa Fe Foundation launched the North County COVID-19 Response Fund to serve the basic needs of vulnerable populations in North County San Diego. To date, the Fund has granted $358,500 to 15 nonprofits, serving over 119,200 people and providing over 96,000 meals.

Over 55 donors have contributed more than $437,000 to the Fund. Updates on this Fund’s activities and solutions in the community are posted regularly here.

The greatest needs presented by grantees from both collaborative funds include food insecurity, unemployment/loss of income, homelessness, mental health concerns, domestic violence, medical vulnerability, ineligibility for unemployment and government benefits, and effects of school closures.

Inspiring Stories from Grantees

Coastal Roots Farm is busier and more essential than ever. Around 70% of Farm Stand customers shared that the crisis has impacted their employment or income. Over 2,000 individuals have benefited from Farm Stand produce and eggs since mid-March. Dozens of clients report lost jobs, including one who shared, “My wife and I are now out of work. The EBT access at Farmers Markets is down so we haven’t had access to fresh food. This Farm Stand provides fresh, organic veggies for my child, wife and me!”

Through the San Diego Jewish Community COVID-19 Emergency Fund, we have heard that the greatest needs are accessing food, medicine, and healthcare; employment and housing assistance; trauma recovery; organizational capacity; and more. One client of Fund grantee Jewish Family Service shared with the organization that they could not afford food, but they also lacked a refrigerator to help them keep food fresh for longer. The Fund was able to provide immediate emergency support as well as a way for the individual to take steps toward greater self-sufficiency.

With a Jerusalem Model micro-grant, Model member Daud Alian and the Ataa Center helped thousands of East Jerusalem residents with online consultations to access help applying for unemployment and other social benefits. Many Model members started food distribution programs to many populations, including Inbar Bluzer Shalem, who created a hotline and distributed food packages to 700 elderly and families in Kiryat Yovel.

Interfaith Community Services is seeing a 400% increase in the number of people accessing basic needs grocery assistance. They shared, “thousands of people we help are scared, anxious, and stir-crazy like us all, but with the added challenges of fearing losing their homes or being unable to feed their families. Many are turning to Interfaith Community Services for the first time in their lives.”

Next Steps

Another Jewish teaching we continually refer to says that while we are not obligated to complete the work, neither are we free to refrain from it. This is at once an imperative and a relief. The needs of our community—and millions of people—are immense. We are still at the beginning. We anticipate a long road ahead. Leichtag Foundation is proud to be just one part of a large mosaic of passionate, committed people making a difference in small and large communities, healing our world one person at a time.

Updates from Collaborative Funds and Jerusalem Model Micro-Grants

San Diego Jewish Community COVID-19 Emergency Fund Update

North County COVID-19 Response Fund Update

Jerusalem Model Micro-Grants Update