In total, the Loan Fund granted $8.9 million in loans to 59 Jewish communal organizations in 23 countries with the most urgent needs.
No community should have to decide between feeding their needy and paying teachers’ salaries so Jewish schools can stay open, or between crucial security upgrades and reducing operating hours for Jewish community centers. But these impossible choices were the reality facing Jewish institutions when COVID-19 threw their communities into peril.
Italy was the first European country to have a major outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020. The Jewish community in Rome, the world’s oldest Jewish community, was hit severely by the pandemic. The president of the Jewish community there, Ruth Dureghello, described the situation as a “nightmare.”
Understanding the very real threat to Jewish organizations, one of our first actions early on in the pandemic, in April 2020, was to quickly launch the COVID-19 Loan Fund for Communities in Crisis. This emergency initiative helped bridge immediate gaps in cash flow amid the coronavirus. Our partners, The Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod, were there with us, offering support and resources. Within days of launching, the fund received dozens of applications.
In the words of former Jewish Agency Chairman of the Executive Isaac Herzog, “We are dealing with an unprecedented crisis that is impacting every aspect of life, and the Jewish people are responsible for one another, now more than ever. Together with our partners, The Jewish Agency will work to ensure the continued existence of Jewish communities and their vital activities.”
“Thanks to The Jewish Agency’s loan fund, our community has been able to provide kosher food and medicine to a large number of families, seniors and COVID patients quarantined in their homes,” shared Ruth.
Communities that received loans ranged from the large centers of Jewish life, including Belgium, France, Italy, South Africa, Spain, and Ukraine as well as smaller Jewish communities in Austria, Costa Rica, Greece and Paraguay, plus others. Organizations included Jewish schools, community centers, Federations, Boards of Education and synagogues.
The loans were used for school tuition subsidies, food assistance and medications for families in need, the purchase of COVID-19 medical supplies, to pay the salaries of teachers and community staff, to develop online programming and activities throughout the pandemic and more.
“In a crisis, The Jewish Agency are the first people we call, and COVID-19 was no different,” said Avrom Krengel, Honorary President of the South Africa Zionist Federation.