The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has struck at the heart of so many aspects of life that were previously taken for granted...

– most fundamentally, our ability to meet together in person.

Despite unanticipated and on-going restrictions, Jewish community organisations have not been prepared to just “press pause”. After all, community networks are an essential support system, which is needed now more than ever.

Urgent needs and planning for the future

Although the fundamental principles underpinning GPG’s grant making remain the same – supporting organisations that share our values, fostering Jewish identity, engaging youth and strengthening connections between Jews in local communities and across the globe – we have extended our funding remit over the course of the pandemic to address a number of urgent and emerging needs. This has impacted our global grant making, as well as our support for Jewish organizations in the UK.  We are proud to have been supporters of the JLC’s Emergency Community Fund and are currently co-funding the Free School Meals programme that is being run by PaJeS to address food poverty affecting children in Jewish state schools.

At the same time, we cannot afford to neglect long-term planning for the future. Instead, Jewish communities everywhere need to be ready to adapt to a new and uncertain reality through creativity and innovation.

Fortunately, the levels of innovation we have seen over the course of this pandemic give real cause for optimism.  Jewish organisations have shown themselves to be flexible and creative in the fullest sense of the word.  Among the organisations we support in the UK, the ever-growing digital offerings of JW3 and JLGB are prime examples – both organisations have been able to draw tens of thousands of viewers globally to their online events, boosting previous levels of engagement and reach.

Digital is not always the answer

Despite these successes, we must also recognise that digital and remote provision are not a panacea. Online communities are an excellent fit in some contexts and for some people, but we cannot ignore what has been lost in recent months, not least in countless silent classrooms and community spaces.

In light of this, organisations that are able to offer personalised and tailored engagement, through a blend of impactful face-to-face components and the flexibility of digital provision, are likely to not only retain, but also broaden their reach. On-line and off-line engagement are different, but the pandemic has already enhanced the skill and confidence levels required to combine the two.

Renewed and new partnerships

With this in mind, GPG is continuing its support to our partners, who we believe are integral to the UK Jewish life, including the JLC, PaJeS, JW3, JLGB and the National Holocaust Centre and Museum (Beth Shalom), as well as continuing our partnerships with international organisations working in the UK – such as PJ Library and Moishe House.

We have also added three new partners to our UK portfolio – the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), Maccabi GB and UJIA. We supported JPR’s efforts to pilot a UK Jewish Community Panel in preparation for the 2021 census, which led to a series of ground-breaking reports about the impact of Covid on Jews in the UK. We were honoured to help Maccabi GB to ensure that this year’s Yellow Candle initiative to mark Yom HaShoah could go ahead in Jewish communities in the UK and around the world, despite challenges posed by the pandemic. This year, with support from GPG, tens of thousands of Yellow Candles, with cards naming individual victims of the Holocaust, were distributed internationally.

We are also working with UJIA and Reshet to expand their provisions for youth engagement and leadership. As part of this effort, GPG supported the Reshet Annual Conference attended virtually by educators, youth and communal leaders, as well as heads of Jewish Schools. Reshet has also just launched a call for applications for micro-grants to encourage youth organizations to enhance the impact of their youth educational programs.

GPG has made a long-term commitment to the UK Jewish community and this will mean supporting organisations while they start to decipher what the “new normal” looks like in practice. However, rebuilding community life to its pre-Covid structure is not what we are aiming for. We want to go further. With all the current challenges in mind, now is the time to plan for a resurgence to ensure that we build on the lessons learned from this uniquely difficult year.

Marina Yudborovsky serves as chief executive officer of Genesis Philanthropy Group, a global family of foundations supporting causes which strengthen Jewish identity worldwide. Marina also serves on the Board of the Jewish Funders Network and was named in the Forward 50 in 2020.