Covid-19 Changed Our Community

It began on March 5 when the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Maryland. On March 16, schools closed, as did public spaces. On March 23, all nonessential businesses shut their doors. 

The year that followed changed the way we lived our lives, from mask-wearing to virtual socialization. Many struggled, whether suffering from financial difficulties, social isolation or food insecurity.  

Yet this past year also was a time when people stepped up to help. The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, thanks to the incredible efforts of its volunteers, donors and professionals, began tackling these challenges, intent on making sure our community stayed strong. 

This is the story of the past year.  

We Addressed Social Isolation and Mental Health 

Baltimoreans of all ages – teens, young and older adults – struggled as social interaction turned virtual. From working remotely to socializing over Zoom to the disruption of life cycle events and milestones, anxiety and other mental health concerns soared.  

  • Jewish Community Services provided more than 12,300 telehealth therapy sessions.  
  • CHAI made approximately 4,000 friendly check-in calls to older adults living in its neighborhoods or living in its Weinberg buildings, ensuring they were staying healthy, while providing support and conversation.  
  • The Myerberg Tech-Knowledge Hub saw a 50% increase in the number of participants over the past year. During this period, the Tech-Knowledge Hub helped older adults navigate the new technology needed to communicate with family and friends… even showed them how to purchase groceries online and make doctor’s appointments.  
  • The JCC, Pearlstone, Myerberg, the Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE) and the Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM) provided thousands of hours of virtual programming that spanned the gamut from fitness to arts and culture to Jewish history. 

We Tackled Food Insecurity  

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many became concerned about their next meal. As a result, The Associated system and its volunteers, provided more than 98,000 meals and boxes of food since March to those facing food insecurity. 

  • Pearlstone prepared boxes of food and fresh produce, as well as nutritious meals, to individuals facing food insecurity. 
  • CHAI provided boxes of food and fresh produce to older adults and people in need.  
  • Through Jewish Volunteer Connection’s (JVC) Bunches of Lunches, Soup Kits and Casserole Challenge, held in partnership with schools, congregations and community organizations, the community provided meals for people in need.

We Helped Victims of Abuse and Trauma   

Domestic abuse skyrocketed as victims were stuck home with their abusers. Many became increasingly scared about leaving, fearful of getting COVID-19 or worried about finding employment during the pandemic. 

  • Since the pandemic began, CHANA has seen a 131% increase over the same time last year. In addition, in November and December 2020, the amount of time CHANA advocates spent on the phone with clients more than doubled.  

The Associated Provided Financial Support  

The pandemic’s economic toll hit many hard, affecting their ability to pay rent and utilities, as well as purchase basic necessities. Jewish Community Services (JCS) saw a 115% increase in the number of financial assistant requests since the crisis began. In turn:  

  • The number of low-income individuals and families seeking emergency financial assistance continues to exponentially increase.

The Associated Supported Education and Learning

When schools closed and students went remote, teachers and students struggled with the new learning platform, and those with learning difficulties became increasingly at risk. CJE and SHEMESH reworked their programming to address these concerns.  

  • CJE helped over 800 day, congregational and early childhood educators transition to online learning.  
  • CJE also saw a 50% increase in families seeking IEP assistance in general and approximately four times as many families asking for help related to public school systems not doing testing over the last year. Through CJE’s MDSnap program, the only free educational advocacy service in Maryland, they helped these families.  
  • SHEMESH immediately pivoted to remote support, providing remote learning sessions to close to 100% of its students with learning difficulties. Attendance tripled at its CHADD Parent Support Group, which addresses topics such as ADHD and executive function.    

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The Associated is a home for everyone in the Baltimore Jewish community. We offer several email lists to help people find a community, engage with their peers and support Jewish journeys around the world.

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