Pandemic Update: How UJA is Repositioning

This is a very bittersweet update to share.

Sweet, in that we have continued to make tremendous progress in meeting the growing needs of our community stemming from the pandemic. We’re appreciative and humbled that this wouldn’t be possible without our incredible donors, volunteers, and staff.

Bitter, in that we have had to make difficult decisions as an organization that have had a direct impact on people we care deeply for: our professional team. While these steps are necessary and responsible, they are no less painful.

We wanted to share details on three developments since our last update.

  • On Sunday, we launched an Emergency Campaign for Community Resilience. While we have mobilized many times in the past to support Jews in crisis overseas, never before have we faced an emergency on this scale in our own community. Through this one-time campaign, we aim to raise funds over-and-above UJA’s Annual Campaign for two key priorities in our local community: supporting the Jewish vulnerable and preserving access to the essentials of Jewish life for Jews in financial crisis.

    The needs of our community in these areas are projected to grow by $25 million due to the pandemic. For more details on our plan, we encourage you to watch a brief video of a Zoom interview Adam Minsky gave with Beth Tzedec Congregation this week.
  • Last week, we made significant internal changes to maximize resources and reposition UJA to meet this challenge. This includes a painful decision, similar to that taken by many other non-profits, to reduce the size of our staff. While we have reviewed all relevant government programs in an effort to mitigate the impact on our team, unfortunately none are fully adequate at this stage. We are saddened to share that it was necessary for us to significantly reduce the size of our staff, including through a mix of permanent terminations, temporary layoffs, and contract cancellations. Senior management and other staff have also voluntarily absorbed temporary but significant salary reductions, so that more resources can be directed to our crisis response.

    Staffing reductions are deeply upsetting in ordinary circumstances, let alone in the current situation. We have approached this process with a commitment to fairness, sensitivity, and compassion – recognizing the extraordinary dedication and talents of our professional staff.
  • We have continued to redirect resources toward the vital and growing needs of our community. We have moved quickly to ensure our social service agency partners can meet surging requests for help from community members. Since the pandemic began, we have made substantial emergency investments, including $725,000 in special grants to our agencies and $200,000 in food relief. This comprehensive approach has bolstered everything from seniors’ services and Kosher Meals on Wheels, to affordable housing and assistance for community members with developmental disabilities, to interest-free loans and addiction counselling – and so much more.

    So too have we continued to closely monitor the shifting needs of our partner day schools, summer camps, and JCCs. This broad analysis is crucial to our plans to keep as many community members as possible connected to the essentials of Jewish life as the pandemic persists.

Thousands of community members, especially our volunteers and donors, have placed immense trust in us. We put a high premium on that confidence and strive to honour it every day. This becomes even more important in moments of crisis, when difficult but urgent change is needed to mount the kind of response our community needs.

What we do as individuals and as a community during this pandemic will define who we will be when it is over. We have no doubt that our community will emerge stronger than ever.


Adam Minsky
President & CEO

Sara Lefton
Senior Vice President, Philanthropy & Campaign Director