NOLA Jewish Community Launches COVID-19 Assistance Initiative

For those in the Greater New Orleans Jewish community, a Jewish Community Response Volunteer Initiative is being launched to assist those in the community who have needs during the coronavirus shutdown.

The Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, Jewish Family Service of Greater New Orleans and the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana have partnered with a number of area synagogues to create the program.

“Our community knows what it means to collaborate for the good of all during times of duress, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” said Arnie Fielkow, Federation CEO. “From volunteer recruitment to centralized resources, we’re doing our best to help as many people as possible during an unprecedented time.”

The program’s goal is to provide connection during a time when the stay in place orders are in force, as well as provide practical assistance to those who need it. The hotline is not for emergency or crisis services, and should not be considered a replacement for 911 medical emergency services of the 211 mental health emergency service.

“Our community has always come together in times of need and uncertainty, and the Volunteer Initiative is just another way we’re working together to meet challenges head-on and provide needed assistance,” said Roselle Ungar, JFS executive director. “We hope anyone needing errands run or just a friendly voice on the phone will reach out through the Initiative.”

Members of a Jewish household who currently reside in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany, St. Charles, Washington, Tangipahoa, St. Helena, Livingston and St. Bernard parishes can contact the Initiative. Requests will be screened by JFS, who will send it to the appropriate synagogue or organization, which will then contact a volunteer to fill the need.

Requests can be made by phone or email, and aside from Shabbat or holidays, should be answered within 48 hours.

Volunteer tasks include picking up groceries or prescriptions, being available to talk to someone who simply wants company via phone or video call, help those who have technology questions or how to set up conferencing or phone apps, or running errands with up to two stops.

After the volunteer is notified of who they are to assist, the volunteer will be responsible for reaching out within 24 hours.

For any volunteer activity that requires commerce, the person being assisted will be responsible for paying the vendor in advance, or using a form of electronic payment that both parties agree with.

On March 27, the Federation announced that because volunteer recruitment had been so successful, they are launching “a little lagniappe: a little extra contact with members of our community” for those who “could use a lagniappe outreach call right now, just to check in and say hello.”

The helpline launched on March 25 at 9 a.m. Call (504) 780-5672 or email Questions about the program may also be submitted.

To volunteer, follow this link. “This is an excellent opportunity to be helpful in a helpless time,” Ungar said.

Bobby Garon, JEF executive director, said the Foundation’s board and staff “are pleased to support the community volunteer response initiative and we are grateful that Jewish Family Service and Federation have taken the lead in coordinating this program. The fact that this initiative will be administered by volunteers predominantly from our synagogues demonstrates how our community continues to come together in times of need.”

Ungar added, “We will emerge from this temporary period of strife a stronger and more connected community, even as we stay apart.”

Updated March 27 with the Lagniappe