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Joel Lazer

Interview with Joel Lazer President of the Jewish Federation about the Covid 19 Community Relief Fund

by Rhonda Spivak, April 28, 2020

The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg recently started a Covid 19 Community Relief Fund campaign and the Winnipeg Jewish Review has  had the opportunity to ask Federation President Joel Lazer a number of questions by email about this emergency campaign.


When asked whether the  the Covid 19 Community Relief Fund campaign has a specific amount/goal in mind or if the campaign is open ended, Lazer answered in an email "At the moment there is no goal.  We know there will be needs. We just don’t know how much. I expect the amount will evolve over time.  I do know the sooner we are out of the pandemic the less the need will be.  Our thought is to raise money now in anticipation of the need as opposed to establishing the exact amounts and then trying to raise the funds."


Lazer added that "Overall we started the campaign as we know there is need now and there will be more in the future.  Most of the uncertainty is due to the uncertainty of the pandemic...For  example, what happens if the camps, day and overnight, do not open this summer?  What if we are not allowed to congregate for the High Holy Days?  What if some of what we are doing now to be safe becomes part of normal life after Covid and what does that look like?  No one knows.


Lazer continued, "We also thought if we wait until we have certainty on the amounts needed it will be too late.  We are fortunate in that today we do not have insurmountable needs.  Almost no one has a need for funding today- let me emphasize almost no one as there are some immediate needs. Everyone, however, knows there will be need in the future, and in the not too distant future. I can also advise the immediate needs we are aware of are being attended to.  Some of the needs may be reduced by cost cutting measures and some will benefit from government programs.  By starting now we are looking to get out in front of the problem before it is insurmountable. Having said all that I am comfortable the community will pull together and each of us will assist where and how we can." 


The Winnipeg Jewish Review asked whether the campaign will run for a set time or whether it with run into the regular campaign in the fall. Lazer answered "We anticipate completing this campaign prior to the fall.  As I said above, needs will increase the longer the pandemic lasts. Ideally it would be good to have this campaign completed prior to the commencement of the regular CJA campaign."


The Winnipeg Jewish Review also asked whether there is  an agreement with beneficiary agencies/other Jewish organizations that they will not ask for donations on their own while the Federation campaign is on. Lazer responded, "There is currently no agreement in place with other agencies. The [Covid 19 Community Relief Fund] distribution committee will consider both government benefits and other funding when considering the applications."


It is to be emphasized that the COVID-19 Community Relief Fund is open to every Jewish community organization in Winnipeg, which can make an application to receive funding from the COVID-19 Community Relief  Fund. It is also to be noted that  the Federation has in excess of $700,000 in reserves.


Lazer also indicated that the  Federation and its beneficiary agencies are eligible for a number of assistance programs.  "This too changes almost daily.  We are assisting the agencies to ensure they are aware of any program which may be of benefit.  The application for funding from the campaign specifically queries this point," Lazer wrote.


When asked whether the Federation knows what the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba will be able to do to assist both beneficiary and non- beneficiary agencies, Lazer replied "We are committed to working together with the Foundation to address the needs of the community. The Foundation’s first step has already been taken, with the deferral of spring grants. This initial action will provide all Jewish organizations with some emergency funding right away."

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.