By Debra S. Weinberg
When we heard about the first coronavirus cases overseas, I don’t think any of us understood how it would upend our lives the way it has. Although we recognized immediately the need to cooperate with our public partners to prevent the spread of the disease, it is sometimes still hard to process how dramatically COVID-19 has disrupted our lives, livelihoods, and businesses — even as we are living it each day.
Last week, I heard a terrifying story from CHANA (The Associated’s agency to address domestic violence) about a client caught in an abusive marriage and stuck at home with her abuser. Unable to leave due to the self-isolation at-home mandate, she spoke about her fear. If she remained in her home, she said, she was worried she would be killed — and no one would find her for weeks.
Her desperate situation and many other personal stories drive our passion to move forward and serve our community. Fortunately, the Baltimore Jewish community, through The Associated, has the infrastructure in place and knowledge gained throughout our rich 100-year history to be able to assist those in need during times of crises. Fortunately, this woman has the safety net of CHANA to support her through this difficult time.
From the Depression to the Great Recession, from the Holocaust to the influx of Soviet Jews, we have stepped up and adapted our resources to meet the challenges we faced. Because of our coordinated, systemwide approach to our community, we have always been able to pivot quickly to address the unexpected.
Since the outbreak, we are again in uncharted territory. Every day, we experience new requests from clients. From food insecurity to social isolation to mental health, we are turning to the talent and commitment of our lay leaders and professionals across our network of agencies for solutions.
Our older adults are at particular risk. Many are living alone and confined to their homes. As a top priority, we are actively recruiting volunteers to assist with friendly calls to assess their urgent needs, ensure their safety and well-being, and determine if they have adequate supplies of medicine and food.
Equally important, our volunteers are the friendly voice that older adults can talk to, reminding them they are not alone.
At the same time, we are committed to ensuring that our older adults do not go hungry. Recognizing that caregivers, neighbors, and shuttle service for grocery shopping may no longer be available, we designed a coordinated food delivery system to ensure access to food in the weeks ahead. We are providing grocery cards for those in need and stocking convenience stores in CHAI’s Weinberg Senior Living buildings with additional groceries.
As mental health concerns rise, we reformatted our mental health services and programs to remain accessible. Our abuse intervention, therapy, and career services remain operational both online and via phone. They are all working with increasing numbers of new clients.
Understanding that our mental and spiritual health depends on staying connected, staying engaged, and staying involved, many more virtual programs have been developed to help navigate current circumstances. These include support services, online learning, family activities, fitness classes, gardening concepts, and more. These are all designed to help people in our community stay well and feel more connected.
Finally, we remain committed to being there for individuals who suddenly find themselves unemployed by connecting them to new jobs. We are working to assist those faced with mounting bills with food and housing costs.
Thanks to The Associated’s unique perspective on the needs of the community and system of agencies, we are able to allocate emergency funds to support the most pressing needs at this time. As we move through the days, weeks, and months ahead, we want you to know that we will always be a trusted partner providing support to those who need it most.
Debra S. Weinberg is the chair of the board of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore.