Meeting Individual Needs: November 2020


I am writing to share an update on our most recent work at Federation, which I preface with deep gratitude to you for making possible. And, this Veterans Day, I extend my thanks on behalf of our organization and our community to all who have served our country. I look forward to bringing you regular updates like the one below as we close out 2020 and welcome 2021.

If you have questions at any time, you can reach me at [email protected].


P.S.: While the update below focuses on our efforts over the past several weeks, I also encourage you to learn more about our shared accomplishments over the course of the year in our new Community Report, published exclusively online for the first time and featuring a special section on Our Response to COVID-19.

Meeting Individual Needs
In late October, nearly 300 Federation donors gathered to learn more about food insecurity in Greater Washington. If you joined us for the third webinar in our A Deeper Dive series, I hope you found the conversation between community leaders Sarah Hurwitz and Sara Polon as thought-provoking as I did. If you missed it, I highly recommend watching the recording.

As the pandemic exacerbates needs like food insecurity across our region, your support has made it possible for Federation to help those most in need. To date:

  • Federation has distributed more than $2.7 million to help those impacted by the pandemic
  • More than $440,000 in direct grants has been distributed to individuals and families in 68 zip codes for financial distress, food insecurity, and/or health challenges
  • More than 1/3 of all grant recipients have requested funds for food assistance

You can learn more about how Federation is addressing food insecurity in this Washington Jewish Week article.

Our work in the human service arena remains a priority for Federation. As the needs continue to grow, we must ensure we have the resources in place to strategically address them over the coming years. We continue to fundraise for the one million dollars for human services that will unlock a $500,000 national match by seven Jewish foundations and facilitated through The Jewish Federations of North America. This money will help ensure our ongoing capacity to care for those in need, and to create longer-term stability for all of Jewish Greater Washington.

Looking Forward
As we continue to care for the vulnerable, we are also applying our learnings about evolving communal needs to refine our focus for the coming 2-4 years. We are building our capacity to address a broad set of issues that may arise, including individual and communal needs as well as shifts in Jewish life, through a dedicated $20 million fund for communal vibrancy and by making strategic allocations decisions.

With an emphasis on collaboration and innovation, we are identifying and addressing how COVID-19 has made it harder for individuals and families to access Jewish life. Though we cannot know what 2021 will bring, we are planning for what we hope to see: a return to identity-building opportunities and lay the foundation for the future of Jewish community and leadership.

We have begun with one of the most formative elements of Jewish life: summer camp. Studies show that camp attendance increases the likelihood of adult participation in Jewish life, including synagogue membership, holiday observance, Jewish philanthropy, and connection to Israel.

In collaboration with our partners in the camping field, Federation has surveyed and closely analyzed the impact of the pandemic and projections for the coming year on enrollment numbers and scholarship needs for Jewish summer camp.

  • 1,879 campers attended our community’s day camps last summer. For summer 2021, day camps expect increased need for financial aid due to additional demand, financial insecurity, and costs associated with busing, COVID-19 protocols, and more.
  • Overnight camps expect to retain most of the 3,410 campers who signed up for summer 2020, and despite limited capacity to do so, anticipate adding new campers for 2021. However, the costs are intensive. In 2020, nearly 12% (almost 400 campers) of Greater Washington overnight campers received financial aid. And while 237 campers received Federation’s One Happy Camper incentive grants, nearly 120 eligible campers did not, due to a lack of resources. Each year, One Happy Camper funds are depleted within 7-10 days due to high demand.

The pandemic and resulting economic crisis have left more families than ever before facing the potential inability to afford sending their children to Jewish camp unless they receive financial support. And so, heading into 2021, we are developing an allocations structure to provide incremental financial support/aid to local families across Greater Washington. Over the coming weeks, our Strategic Planning & Allocations Committee will put forward a recommendation for the best model for this aid and map the criteria for Federation summer camp scholarships.

In the coming months, the committee will also focus their attention on Jewish Day School and Early Childhood Education scholarships/aid. The research on those fronts is already underway.

Safeguarding these experiences for our community is crucial to Federation’s mission: to inspire, build, and sustain vibrant Jewish life in a changing world. In no other year have we seen as much change—nor as much unparalleled generosity from leaders like you. I thank you again for your support, leadership, and dedication to our Jewish community. By continuing to invest our time, energy, and resources in this vital work, we are collectively laying the foundation for a truly vibrant Jewish future.