Tikkun Olam in a Time of Pandemic

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Many of us are thinking about ways to help those suffering as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. GJC has a long history of supporting our members and our surrounding community.  The current crisis brings unprecedented challenges, but also opportunities to live into our core communal values of Kehilah (Community) and Redifat Tzedek (Pursuing Justice).  Rabbi Zeff and the Tikkun Olam Coordinating Team offer below some initial suggestions of how members of the GJC Community might consider responding. We look forward to continuing this holy work together.

Members in need
Some of our members have already lost jobs or had their salaries cut, while others are suffering from isolation, stress, or illness.  Here are some ways you could help:

  • Volunteer to reach out:  The new GJC Pastoral Care Team is organizing volunteers to make phone calls to members in need of connection.  Please contact Beth Janus if you would like to volunteer.
  • Use the discretionary fund:  The Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund (RDF) is an available resource for those in need of financial assistance, and it is already being tapped to help in this crisis.  If you are in need, please contact Rabbi Zeff; all interactions with the RDF are confidential.  If you are able, you can make a donation to the RDF here (click on the “Religious” tab under “Fund Descriptions” to find Rabbi Zeff’s Discretionary Fund).

Direct action
Although we are sheltering in place at this time, for those who are able there are some limited opportunities to provide needed hands-on help even as we keep ourselves safe:

  • Give blood:  Blood supplies are low, and blood banks are in need.  Because GJC is one of the relatively few places that can provide sufficient space for social distancing, we are holding a blood drive at GJC on Sunday, May 17 from 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM.  An advance appointment is required.  Click here to make an appointment.
  • Deliver food:  The Jewish Relief Agency (JRA) is in need of volunteer drivers to make food deliveries in our area.  Volunteers do not enter the JRA warehouse, and there is no direct contact with recipients.  Click here to sign up to volunteer.

Advocacy
Even from home, we can raise our voices to advocate for justice and equality for our neighbors and fellow citizens, as we have done in our community since our founding.  Here are a few opportunities to do so:

  • Support public education:  POWER and other education advocacy groups note that our public schools could be facing catastrophic cuts at a time of unprecedented need.  You can click here to urge state legislators to help fill anticipated revenue shortfalls in local school district budgets by allocating federal COVID-19 relief funds to help maintain adequate funding levels.
  • Insist on feeding the hungry:  With the economy in dire straits, hunger is an imminent and growing threat in our country.  You can click here to find out how to urge Congress to strengthen our largest national hunger relief program, SNAP, in any COVID-19 relief legislation.

Donations to aid organizations
If you’re considering supporting aid efforts with a financial donation (some may be thinking of sharing a portion of their financial stimulus check) here are a few ideas you might keep in mind:

  • HIAS-PA:  Many of our members have been involved in helping refugees and other immigrants through HIAS-PA, which has a long history in Philadelphia.  HIAS-PA has established the HIAS-PA Immigrant Relief Fund to help in this crisis.
  • PIHN:  GJC has been involved for many years in housing homeless families through the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network.  While we are not able to house families at this time, PIHN is helping to provide temporary housing for the homeless, as well as food and other necessary supplies.
  • Other organizations:  This Inquirer article offers a good list of organizations doing relief work in Northwest Philadelphia and the rest of the region.
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