Erika B. Rudin-Luria has a message for the Jewish community as it faces COVID-19.

“Our large message is one of al tifros ha tzibor,” the president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland told the Cleveland Jewish News on March 18. “It’s don’t separate yourself from community. We want people to be safe. But at the same time, we want them to be connected to other people and we want them to be engaged with other people.”

Rudin-Luria said most of the Federation staff had been working remotely prior to the stay-at-home order, and the primary focus of the Federation and Jewish agencies in Greater Cleveland has been on identifying and responding to needs in the community.

Already, she said, there has been job loss within the Jewish community.

She reached out March 12 to Yeshiva Derech Hatorah and Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, both in Cleveland Heights, requesting the two schools provide breakfast and lunch to children from not only those two schools, but from three other Jewish day schools in Greater Cleveland.

“We’re seeing an enormous amount of communication and collaboration and openness to helping each other in new ways,” she said. “People have really come together beautifully, first to make sure that the basic needs of the most vulnerable in our community are met.”

It was through listening to community members that the Federation decided to hold webinars aimed at parents. She said people have asked, “How do we sift through all of the articles, and all of the commentary and hear from the experts on how to deal with coronavirus in the community?”

That series continued with a

March 22 webinar, “Celebrating Passover Safely,” with Dr. Shelly Senders, founder of Senders Pediatrics in South Euclid.

Jewish Family Service Association of Cleveland in Pepper Pike is providing counseling to anyone struggling through this period. And Bellefaire JCB in Shaker Heights is offering advice as well.

Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation is providing a $250,000 grant to the Federation for response to coronavirus.

Rudin-Luria said she anticipates that securing additional foods around Passover may be far more of a challenge, and she is concerned that the supply chain may get disrupted.

“We’ve all seen what happens in the local stores,” she said.

The Federation has already seen the need for emergency financial assistance for rent, mortgage and utilities. She said the school closures have also been a challenge for two-parent working households.

“There are challenges regarding day care as people wonder, are they endangering grandparents by having grandparents watching children?” she said.

Rudin-Luria said pacing is important and she hopes to continue integrating information as it comes in.

“We’re still early in this,” she said. “But we’re convinced by putting these tools out there by leaning in and listening to what people are telling agencies, we’ll be able to respond in relevant ways to our community.”

She also said community members reached out to others to provide housing for those dealing with quarantine.

“It was a quarantine situation where people needed to be separated,”

Rudin-Luria said. “And two individuals made it happen.”

Last week, staff from several Jewish agencies and the Federation volunteered to deliver meals to people who would ordinarily get them at the Mandel Jewish Community Center’s Lunch Plus meals program.

“Nobody is saying today ‘that’s not my job,’” she said. “Everybody is jumping in and offering to do more. It’s really just beautiful.”

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