Update from President and CEO Rabbi Jay Strear

Apr 20, 2020 | Article

Update from President and CEO Rabbi Jay Strear

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in economic needs that could not have been predicted or planned for. Here in Colorado, we’ve seen firsthand the acute challenge this crisis poses to Jewish organizations and the Jewish community, and JEWISHcolorado has begun to meet some of those needs. We believe that investing together now to buttress the vital pillars of Jewish life—Jewish education, Jewish engagement, and Jewish leadership—will ensure a vibrant and lasting future for our Jewish community.

In this time of uncertainty, support like yours is making it possible for JEWISHcolorado to maintain the strength of our Jewish community and sustain the bonds that unify us all.


COVID-19 Community Response Fund

In March, when the breadth and depth of the pandemic’s impact became apparent, JEWISHcolorado established the COVID-19 Community Response Fund, in coordination with the Denver and Boulder JCCs, area Jewish day schools, the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council, the Consortium of Orthodox Rabbis, Chabad Rabbis, and the Board of Peers. Within 10 days and in consultation with the board and our partners, JEWISHcolorado committed $100,000 in emergency funding to our community: $10,000 to Kavod Senior Life; $7,500 to Shalom Park to assist with basic supplies for residents; and $82,500 to Jewish Family Service to replenish their food pantry and provide immediate assistance to those in the Jewish community most in need. Over Passover, an additional $4,900 was distributed to Jewish Family Service to provide 210 meals for older adults who rely on the Kosher Meals on Wheels program.

We are now in the second phase of the campaign, which comprises a two-pronged approach to supporting and sustaining the Colorado Jewish community: continued fundraising and ongoing and regular needs assessment. The information we collect is evaluated by a Community Response Fund Task Force so that we can effectively and efficiently address immediate organization needs and maintain the long-term stability of our organizations state-wide. To date, we have raised an additional $450,000, thanks to a combination of Board and professional staff outreach and community-wide digital appeals.

The next round of disbursements will focus on bolstering Jewish communal institutions so they can continue their important work through this crisis and beyond.


Nonprofit Loan Assistance

JEWISHcolorado advocated for passage of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which, for the first time, made nonprofit organizations eligible for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), a loan program overseen by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Since the passage of the CARES Act, JEWISHcolorado has helped numerous Jewish and other community organizations apply for and secure critical funding that will enable them to retain key members of their professional teams. 
The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) has been central to this effort, consulting closely with SBA Regional Administrator Dan Nordberg, a JCRC Public Officials Mission to Israel alumnus and a member of the Colorado House of Representatives. The JCRC will continue to work with the Colorado congressional delegation to ensure that those nonprofits that were unable to secure funding during the first round of PPP will be able to do so through the next relief bill Congress passes.


Maintaining Safety & Security in the Pandemic

Our Regional Safety & Security Initiative, in partnership with Rose Community Foundation and ADL, continues to provide guidance on safeguarding both the Jewish community and Jewish facilities, including synagogues. Tony Losito, our Regional Safety & Security director, has consulted with rabbinic and lay leadership throughout the state and lent his considerable expertise to the process of tightening up technological and physical plant vulnerabilities. Tony has visited—and continues to visit—temporarily vacant Jewish institutions around the state and recommended preventative security measures, hosted remote security training webinars, and disseminated up-to-the-minute information and threat assessments from local, state, and national resources. 


Caring for Community

Since mid-March, fifty-two JEWISHcolorado volunteers and staff have made more than 2,000 chesed calls to community members, beginning with our most vulnerable. We will continue making these calls over the coming weeks to touch base, provide a friendly ear, and offer assistance where it’s needed. Both our main phone line and e-helpline, help@jewishcolorado.org, are fielding inquiries daily, and we’re connecting those callers with the appropriate assistance, whether that comes in the form of a JEWISHcolorado program or an external organization or agency.

Maintaining Vibrant Jewish Life

Our Jewish Life & Engagement team has been hard at work, developing creative and meaningful ways to transform in-person programs into virtual experiences. In the weeks since the pandemic took hold, we built a robust Volunteer Connection program, which matches those in need with services and those who want to volunteer with safe opportunities to do so.

In light of the circumstances and after much discussion, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the 2020 Joyce Zeff Israel Study Tour (IST). The decision was, to some extent, taken out of our hands when we received cancelation notices from our airline and tour providers, but we remain committed to preserving what has become a beloved rite of passage for many in our community. In order to do so, we will run two separate but simultaneous trips so that this year’s teens will still be able to participate in what we know is a transformative and life-changing experience.

As always but in this moment in particular, JEWISHcolorado is intensely focused on the emergent needs in our community. We are deploying our financial and human resources to our community and, in doing so, fulfilling our most important mission: to empower, support, and sustain Jewish life and the Jewish community in Colorado. 

But we cannot do it alone. Now we need you and other key leaders in our community to help us help others. 

If you are able to contribute to our efforts through the COVID-19 Community Response Fund or our Annual Campaign, which enable us to respond in times of crisis like this, please contact our Senior Director of Philanthropy Steven Baker. Our community needs us now more than ever.


Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO