Shalom Austin’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund Supports Critical Needs
By Amy Hyman
As the impact of COVID-19 on Jewish community organizations became apparent, Shalom Austin addressed these growing challenges through convening, resource sharing and funding. Thanks to the tremendous leadership of Phil and Adam Loewy, who challenged the community with a $100,000 matching gift, Shalom Austin launched the COVID-19 Community Response Fund. David Kline provided an additional matching opportunity to challenge the YAD community to participate in this important initiative.
Through the generosity of the Austin Jewish community, the fund raised over $255,000 in unrestricted dollars from 336 donors, including $20,350 as an allocation from the 2020 Shalom Austin Annual Campaign grants process.
The purpose of this fund was to swiftly and effectively address the most critical evolving needs faced by community members and partner institutions; ensuring at-risk populations had their basic needs met such as food, housing and utilities; increasing access to mental health and social services; expanding financial assistance to meet a growing demand; providing operating capital to help local congregations and organizations to survive; and stabilizing Jewish communal workforces.
Taking guidance from Jewish Federations of North America, Abby Rapoport, Shalom Austin board chair, and Rick Rosenberg, chair elect, convened a task force of leaders with broad community representation to analyze a community needs assessment conducted in April and develop the grantmaking process and criteria for allocating funds raised.
Task force members included Barb Altman (Grants Committee co-chair), Martin Berson (strategic planning chair), Scott Grossfeld (Finance Committee member), Seth Halpern (incoming campaign chair), Phil Loewy (Shalom Austin Women’s Philanthropy chair), Lenny Krasnow (Shalom Austin Jewish Family Service Committee member), Courtney Manuel (campaign chair), Jeff Newberg (community leader), Diane Radin (Jewish Foundation co-chair), Alex Robinson (Grants Committee co-chair), Debbie Rudy (community leader) and Susan Zane Epstein (community leader).
In reflecting on this important convening role of Shalom Austin and the support from many partner organizations that signed a community letter promoting the fund, Rapoport stated, “In these unprecedented times, it was critical that we come together as a community to address both the seen and unforeseen challenges faced by the entirety of Austin’s Jewish community. Our greatest strength resides in our collective belief that we must work together to meet the needs of the most vulnerable among us, while helping to support the critical work performed by our various Jewish institutions.”
When reviewing the grant requests in October, the task force ultimately decided that severity of financial need was the top criteria for resource allocation and analyzed each organization or program within the following categories: camp, schools, other community organizations and congregations. Unrestricted support was provided to the camps, schools and other community organization applicants while the task force opted to provide funds to congregations designated for their Clergy Discretionary Fund to ensure that the most vulnerable congregants were taken care of.
Laura Corman, Congregation Beth Israel board president, said, “I am thankful for the generous grants that Beth Israel received from Shalom Austin’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. It never occurred to me that in addition to the grant that CBI received for the Child Development Center, we would also receive a grant for our Clergy’s Discretionary Funds. To me this is another reminder that Shalom Austin is working to support all aspects of Austin’s Jewish community during this very difficult time.”
Although Shalom Austin JFS did not receive an unrestricted allocation from the task force, over $66,000 has been raised to support additional Emergency Financial Assistance requests for support in paying rent and utilities primarily, including $20,000 from the city of Austin. This is in addition to the $30,000 that was budgeted through the Shalom Austin Annual Campaign, therefore more than tripling the funds needed to address the growing number of requests. Philip and Donna Berber’s foundation, Glimmer Austin, generously provided a $15,000 grant to ensure holistic support of Jewish senior adults served by Shalom Austin.
In recognizing that the financial impact of COVID-19 is far from over, the task force opted to hold back 10 percent, totaling $25,855, to be rolled into the 2021 Shalom Austin grants process taking place in winter 2021.
To contribute to the COVID-19 Community Response Fund, Shalom Austin is still accepting donations. Please visit www.shalomaustin.org/commresponse. ■
COVID-19 Community Response Fund Task Force
Abby Rapoport & Rick Rosenberg, Co-Chairs
Barb Altman, Grants Committee Co-Chair
Martin Berson, Strategic Planning Chair
Scott Grossfeld, Finance Committee Member
Seth Halpern, Incoming Campaign Chair
Phil Loewy, Women’s Philanthropy Chair
Lenny Krasnow, Shalom Austin JFS Committee Member
Courtney Manuel, Campaign Chair
Jeff Newberg, Community Leader
Diane Radin, Jewish Foundation Co-Chair
Alex Robinson, Grants Committee Co-Chair
Debbie Rudy, Community Leader
Susan Zane Epstein, Community Leader
Community Response Fund Allocations
Camps (Day and Overnight)
Camp Gan Israel (Chabad)
Camp Young Judaea
Greene Family Camp
JCamp (Shalom Austin)
Schools (Preschool and Day School)
Austin Jewish Academy
Child Development Center at Congregation Beth Israel
Early Childhood Program (Shalom Austin)
Hebrew Preparatory School
Other Community Organizations
Anti-Defamation League Austin
Austin Jewish Film Festival
Chabad Young Professionals
Hebrew Free Loan of Austin
Israeli American Council
Texas A&M Hillel
Synagogues – Rabbi Discretionary Fund
Chabad of Austin
Congregation Agudas Achim
Congregation Beth El
Congregation Beth Israel
Congregation Havurah Shalom
Congregation Kol Halev
Congregation Shalom Rav
Congregation Shir Ami
Congregation Tiferet Israel
Temple Beth Shalom
On November 7, Jennifer Greenblum will be honored at Mosaic as the 2022 Woman of Valor for her longtime commitment to the Jewish community.
Jewish National Fund-USA partnered with Austin Jewish Academy, Congregation Agudas Achim, and Austin firefighters to host a 9/11 ceremony.