JEF, JFS launch COVID-19 financial assistance for NOLA Jewish community members

Members of the Jewish community in New Orleans who are in need due to economic stresses of the coronavirus pandemic can now apply for the Jewish Community COVID-19 Emergency Financial Assistance Program.

“Stability bridge grants” of up to $2,500 will be available for those “who require life sustaining funds and have exhausted all other means to meet their basic needs.” The program is being funded by the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana and administered by Jewish Family Service of Greater New Orleans.

Created more than 53 years ago, JEF is a repository of charitable funds that are invested and administered to ensure a strong and vibrant Jewish community for future generations.

“JEF acts as a safety net in times of crisis,” said JEF Executive Director Bobby Garon. “We could not be more grateful to work with our community partners to provide the critical financial assistance and support that individuals and families need during this unprecedented time.”

As a social service agency dedicated to preserving and enhancing life, JFS hopes the program will provide both material aid and emotional relief to those impacted by the pandemic.

“One of our greatest moments as an agency was our Hurricane Katrina response” after the 2005 storm, said Roselle Ungar, JFS executive director. “We’re using many of the tools and skills we learned during that period now. The challenges might be different, but working with other community agencies, foundations, and volunteers remains the most effective means of serving vulnerable populations.”

“It is our hope that JEF’s resources, combined with JFS’ program and implementation, will help local families overcome the immediate financial stability struggles that will surely exist as a result of the coronavirus,” said Garon. “The uncertainty of the pandemic’s scope and scale is a challenge greater than what we faced with Hurricane Katrina and I am proud of the JEF Board’s unanimous decision to utilize these funds to support those who will need it most.”

The Jewish Community COVID-19 Emergency Financial Assistance Program is part of a suite of response efforts managed by JFS. JEF and JFS partnered with the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans and area synagogues to launch the Jewish Community Response Volunteer Initiative, a helpline matching healthy volunteers with individuals needing connection and/or practical assistance during the social distancing phase of the outbreak.

JFS also launched a COVID-19 Resource Page to collect information and resources for enduring the pandemic. Visitors can expect to find mental health advice, ways to help, information regarding the City of New Orleans’ social safety net resources, and much more.

To provide critical emotional support to the community, JFS is hosting weekly Virtual Gatherings. On Thursdays at 3 p.m., community members can join a Zoom video conference with friends, neighbors, and JFS’ mental health professionals. JFS staff hope the Virtual Gatherings bring catharsis, connections, and helpful tips in a challenging and distant time.

“We’re operating without many of our normal resources in regards to reaching and serving our clients. I’ve been so impressed with our staff and community partners’ flexibility in transitioning to a mostly virtual workspace,” said Rachel Lazarus Eriksen, director of clinical services at JFS. “Our whole community is mobilizing to get everyone the help and support they need.”

“The JEF board continues to support our mission to serve the needs of our Jewish community, especially in times of crisis,” said Lawrence Lehmann, JEF president. “We are pleased to allocate money from our General Fund and the Oscar and Marjorie Tolmas Memorial Donor Advised Fund for this program.”

How To Apply

Applicants for financial assistance must be 25 years of age or older, have maintained a permanent residence in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany or St. Bernard Parish for at least one year, be a member of the Jewish community and have exhausted all other avenues for assistance.

Funds will be available for food, shelter and medical or other basic emergencies.

Applications may be made by following this link, downloading the form and filling it out. It should then be saved as a pdf, using the file name “(last name) (first initial) Financial Assistance Application.”

Requested documents should be scanned or photographed, then saved as “(last name) (first initial) (what the document is).” The application and documents should then be emailed to with the subject line “(last name) (first name) Emergency Assistance Application.”

Applications may also be mailed to the JFS office at 3300 West Esplanade Avenue South, Suite 603, Metairie, LA 70002, but that will delay processing. Applications can also be requested by mail by calling (504) 831-8475 and leaving a message.