Jewish Federation
Courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit's Facebook.

The money will be distributed to Jewish agencies and organizations for community services, JFMD says.

At the end of March, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit announced the development of the COVID-19 Emergency Campaign. To date, the campaign has reached their goal of $7.5 million.

This emergency campaign was instituted to secure funds to ensure JFMD’s agencies and other organizations would be able to continue to provide services to the community during the coronavirus pandemic.

At the same time, JFMD also started the COVID-19 Task Force, chaired by Matt Lester, incoming Federation president, and Dennis Bernard, incoming United Jewish Foundation president. The job of the task force is to oversee the campaign, manage the allocation of the money received and work with the agencies and organizations to determine best practices.

“The campaign has been an amazing success. We have raised approximately $7.5 million and the vast majority of that is from about 21 donors and was received in the first three to four weeks of the announcement,” Lester told the JN. “We are not actively soliciting and haven’t been for a few weeks now but there are some donations that continue to come in.”

One of the donors was the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, who announced on April 15 that they were donating $1.6 million to leaders throughout the Metro Detroit community who were helping with immediate needs presented by COVID-19. They donated to a multitude of organizations throughout the community, including JFMD.

Before the campaign kicked off, Federation was helping both Federation agencies and non-Federation agencies receive loans, such as PPP loans (Paycheck Protection Program) totaling $17.5 million, to ensure that organizations throughout the community had the resources needed to sustain the beginning of the pandemic.

Some of the Federation agencies include the Jewish Community Center, Tamarack Camps, Hillel Day School, Frankel Jewish Academy, Jewish Senior Life, JVS and more. Non-Federations include organizations like JARC, Kadima, etc.

Once the campaign started at the end of March and money started to come in, it immediately went to personal protective equipment (PPE) for senior housing and for human service agencies. It then went to technology so some of the Jewish day schools could begin the transition to virtual learning.

“It also went to food organizations, including Yad Ezra, Meals on Wheels, and more. A lot of money also went to support community mental health funding, such as Jewish Senior Life (JSL),” Bernard said. “It went for medical issues for the community; it went to support, for instance, hero pay at JARC homes, Kadima homes, or JVS clients in the community that had people with developmental disabilities so they could keep them employed.”

Although the campaign has raised around $7.5 million, JFMD says it has only spent less than $1 million of the money raised. The reason for that is to make sure that the funding can be extended for the long haul and to ensure that the money is available for the foreseeable future.

“One of the subcommittees under the Emergency Task Force was agency assistance. The first priority for agency assistance was to make sure all of our agencies, not just Federation agencies, but all of our Jewish agencies in town were able to receive the help they needed,” Bernard said. “We don’t know how long this is going to last, so we have to make sure to stretch out our community resources.”

To determine how much money the agencies received, the allocation committee on the task force, made up of some of the people from foundations who provided large funding, federation officers and led by Steven Ingber, chief operating officer at JFMD, put together a questionnaire for everyone to fill out who was requesting money.

“The questionnaire was a 4-5 page request form with the dollar amount requested, why are they requesting it, what is the money going to and what are the mitigants, meaning who else have they gone to, what are they doing to cut costs,” Bernard said. “We asked to keep it at a month or two chunks of what is needed and then we weigh the priorities of the community. Just about everyone who has been through this vetting process has been funded.”

The agency assistance committee and Federation also began instituting daily phone calls in the morning with 24 agencies throughout the community to begin to work together on sharing best practices, making sure everyone had enough PPE and to make sure that the community was acting as one.

“One of the things that is true about this crisis is the fact that this community came together in its entirety, not just the 16 agencies or organizations under the Jewish Federation,” Lester said. “The entire Jewish community mobilized under the lead of our Federation.”

While there is no hard stop date for the campaign, the task force is making sure that the 2021 Annual Campaign, which kicks off in the fall, will not be undermined. Once the campaign reached $7.5 million, Federation had stopped the formal asks for donations.

“We want to be in a position not to undermine our 2021 Annual Campaign,” Lester said. “We do not believe that this will have any effect on our annual campaign simply because many of the donors for the emergency campaign are our largest donors, some of whom are our foundations, who are positioned well to respond to this type of crisis.”

The annual campaign according to Ted Cohen, chief marketing officer at JFMD, “is and will always be the backbone of community welfare and it will be even more so the case going forward. Giving to the annual campaign will achieve the same purpose, if not more.”

Federation is proud of what the campaign has accomplished the past two months but knows that more challenges lie ahead as the community continues to navigate the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It remains to be seen how successful we are in meeting the challenges that come over the next coming weeks, months and maybe even years,” Lester said. “We need to continue to be incredibly collaborative and that may be the signature word that defines this effort.”


This article has been updated to reflect the correction of the name of the loans that agencies received and they reached their goal of $7.5 million.

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