The COVID-19 pandemic has placed enormous burdens on local Jewish nonprofits and those they serve. In response, Rose Community Foundation has recalibrated its Jewish Life grantmaking strategies for 2020 to prioritize bolstering nonprofits’ responses to emerging needs, mitigating the virus’s short- and mid-term impacts on the Jewish community, and supporting long-term organizational recovery and stabilization.
As the virus reached Colorado this past spring, the Foundation reoriented its overall grantmaking approach for the remainder of the year, committing the bulk of our remaining 2020 grantmaking budget to a multi-phase, multi-faceted philanthropic response aimed at addressing time-sensitive community needs through the framework of our long-term strategic goals. The Foundation also relaxed restrictions on currently open grants and aggregated potential resources and external funding opportunities for nonprofits.
In April, the Foundation made four rapid-response emergency grants to Jewish organizations working on the front lines of pandemic relief. These groups rushed services to those in the Jewish community, and the Greater Denver community-at-large, most immediately affected by the pandemic’s health and economic impacts – older adults, medically vulnerable individuals and people experiencing food or housing insecurity.
One of the Foundation’s early grant recipients was Shalom Park, an Aurora-based senior community whose services were dramatically impacted by the virus’s acute threat to older adults. “The visitor restrictions to nursing homes has had a significant impact on our elders,” explains Marc Penner, Shalom Park’s President and CEO. “Their inability to visit in-person with family members has led to increased feelings of loneliness.”
In response, Shalom Park has developed creative and safe ways for its community members to meet with their families through virtual, window and outdoor visitation. Due to the state mandating the closure of nursing home dining rooms, staff deliver meals to elders in their rooms. Additional staff have also been hired to assist with taking temperatures and screening employees on a daily basis.
“Very early on in this pandemic, Rose Community Foundation reached out to Shalom Park to determine how the Foundation could help keep our elders and staff safe and healthy,” Penner says. “The Foundation was a true lifesaver and brought much needed peace of mind to our organization.”
The Foundation made its second round of COVID-19 grants to Jewish nonprofits in June. By the summer, Jewish-serving organizations were not only trying to modify or increase their services to assist community members immediately affected by the pandemic, but many were also working on sustaining and nurturing Jewish life during a time of physical isolation. The Foundation prioritized funding to organizations advancing community safety, strengthening health and wellness, and sustaining and rebuilding COVID-impacted ritual and communal life for Jewish people in the Greater Denver region.
BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy, a nonprofit that supports mental health and wellness in the Jewish community through direct therapeutic and wellness-oriented outdoor programs, was one of the Foundation’s phase-two grant recipients. The bulk of BaMidbar’s programming is seasonal, running between March and September each year. In mid-March, the organization was forced to cancel all in-person programs for the remainder of the year.
“As a nonprofit that relies heavily on tuition revenue from in-person programs, our budget was heavily impacted by COVID-19,” shares Jory Hanselman Mayschak, BaMidbar’s executive director. “Rose Community Foundation has been instrumental to our success during these challenging times.”
“After cancelling in-person programming, we directed our attention toward virtual mental health professional development opportunities for Jewish community professionals. With the Foundation’s support, we were able to not only survive, but significantly expand certain areas of our program to meet pressing needs around mental health education.”
Similarly, CU Boulder Hillel has been tasked with “re-envisioning what it means to build authentic relationships in a virtual and hybrid setting,” explains Executive Director Seth Reder. CU Boulder Hillel, which received a phase-two grant from the Foundation, has created new experiences and adapted previous programs in response to the pandemic’s restrictions on in-person gatherings.
For example, the organization has crafted a drive-thru Shabbat experience, where students can pick up a “Shabbox” filled with a home-cooked meal, candles, grape juice, challah and blessings, before joining fellow students for a virtual Shabbat experience. Other programs range from a virtual Jewish Learning Fellowship focusing on text study and discussion through a modern lens – to a virtual cooking class with Israeli chefs.
“Although our mission, vision, goals and values have not changed throughout the pandemic, our methods have adapted to continue engaging students, build meaningful community and help shape the next generation of Jewish leaders,” says Reder. “Without the continued support of Rose Community Foundation, CU Boulder Hillel would not have the infrastructure and staff in place to support the CU Boulder Jewish community.”
As we head toward the year’s end, the Jewish nonprofit ecosystem is facing or anticipating significant revenue losses from months of cancelled fundraising events, lost fee-for-service revenue and an inability to deliver and charge for programs. While the Foundation remains committed to funding organizations that are providing basic-needs services and ritual and communal support to the local Jewish community, our Jewish Life grantmaking will also increasingly aim to help mitigate the economic disruption of COVID-19 on Jewish organizations’ financial health.
The Foundation’s phase-three COVID-19 grant opportunity is intended to enable Jewish nonprofits to focus on recovery from COVID-19 and support organizational mission fulfillment. This funding opportunity is currently open, though the deadline for applications closes at 12:00 p.m. (noon) on Friday, October 30.
Starting in November, and based on needs shared with us by local Jewish organizations, Rose Community Foundation is underwriting a series of virtual workshops for local Jewish nonprofit organizations around fundraising effectiveness in the virtual world. More information and the link to register is available here.
While we have increased our 2020 grantmaking budget and will continue to direct funding to Jewish nonprofits affected by the pandemic, the Jewish community’s needs continue to outpace available resources. And together, we can do so much more than any of us can do on our own.
We invite you – our fundholders, our donors and others in the Greater Denver region who care about the future of Jewish life in our communities – to join us through a gift to our Fund for Jewish Nonprofit Resiliency. Contributions will fund grantmaking to bolster Jewish organizations’ stability and resiliency and will also support needs identified by the organizations themselves, including technical assistance grants, cohort-based learning and workshops, marketing and storytelling support, and diversity, equity and inclusion training. Every dollar contributed to this pooled fund will be deployed quickly and strategically into the local Jewish community.
We are grateful to be part of a community of philanthropists who have done so much for so many this year. Thus far in 2020, Rose Community Foundation’s donor-advised fundholders have made 135 grants totaling $619,676 to Colorado Jewish organizations. Our collective philanthropic reach and impact is maximized when we leverage our shared resources. This moment calls on us all to do more.
In addition to the important support you provide directly to the Jewish organizations in your life, we hope you will join us in supporting the local Jewish ecosystem as a whole.