Sharing Our Accomplishments and Re-Opening Plan

Dear Friends:
In the months since the issuance of the "Safer at Home" orders, following the advice and guidelines of local and national health and government experts, we closed our office and suspended all in-person programming. Like the rest of the world, we have been meeting and working remotely to carry out our responsibilities. As we move into phase one of the Badger Bounce Back plan, we are excited to share what we have accomplished during this time and our plan for safely re-opening our office and programs.

Since March 16, Gan HaYeled Preschool provided online learning, programming, and support to its community of families. At the beginning of each week, director Marla Becker sent the children and parents explorations ideas with resource links on the week's learning theme and concluded the week with a fun video compilation featuring the week's adventures. The entire school met daily on Zoom for story time, science experiments, talent shows, singing, sharing, socializing, and celebrating the holidays and Shabbat. Throughout the week, small groups met on Zoom for playdates, student/teacher one on one time, Hebrew, and kindergarten readiness. Some of the staff, following social distancing, did in-person story time, dropped off graduate gifts, and painted one of the classrooms and the entire hallway.

Midrasha Hebrew High School core, elective, and Hebrew classes met remotely via Zoom for the remainder of the second semester with excellent attendance and barely missing a beat. We were delighted to join Midrasha families for a virtual graduation ceremony on May 6 to celebrate the nine passionate, committed, poised, and articulate seniors. Getting to award all nine graduates with a Midrasha Incentive Award of up to $2,000 each to continue their Jewish education following graduation made us incredibly proud. Registration for Midrasha 2020/2021 opened on June 1, with classes scheduled to begin September 16.

At the onset of in-person events having to go virtual, we created the Jewish Madison Community COVID-19 Resources section on our website as a centralized hub for all Madison Jewish organizations and synagogues to list their events and provide a platform to connect and create community virtually. Messages of hope and inspiration from our Madison rabbis are posted weekly on a rotating basis, along with easy to access information, support, and volunteer opportunities.

To better address the unprecedented issues arising from the pandemic our organization faced, a specially selected group of local experts were appointed to the newly created Emergency COVID-19 Committee. The committee members represented a comprehensive range of relevant fields and areas, including HR, legal, pediatrics, camp, as well as folks who have extensive knowledge of our programs. The committee poured through guidelines and sought advice from local and national health, governmental, and licensing organizations. They then thoroughly reviewed all of the information gathered, taking into consideration our unique program needs, and then gave their recommendations on the viability, considerations, and procedures for all of our programs re-opening or not re-opening.

After extensive and careful deliberation, we decided to open Gan HaYeled's annual summer program, Camp Shalom Katan on June 15 and Camp Shalom and Noar-Bogrim as scheduled on June 22 in a modified format. Both programs will look and feel very different to accommodate a myriad of stringent health and sanitation precautions in place in adherence to CDC and state guidelines and a commitment to the health and safety of our campers, families, staff, and community as our top priority. With this same commitment in mind, we made the difficult decision not to open the Goodman Aquatic Center this summer.

Our Jewish Federation of Madison office will be opening on June 15 for essential work only. Staff, committees, and the board will continue to work and meet remotely whenever possible. In the months prior, our staff, committees, and board have been working diligently remotely and meeting regularly and enthusiastically on Zoom. We recently launched a Strategic Plan Initiative that will take place over the summer months. The committee team, with input from community focus groups, will work with a consultant to map out an organizational vision and strategic plan to guide our work for the next five-ten years.

We're also excited to share that our board of directors unanimously voted at May's meeting to allocate resources to all our community congregations and local beneficiaries of the Jewish Federation of Madison to provide support for new and additional challenges being faced as result of COVID-19. Recipients of these $1,000-$2,000 one-time grants include Beth Israel Center, Chabad of Madison, Chabad at UW, Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, Jewish Burial Association of Madison, Jewish Social Services, Temple Beth El, Wisconsin Jewish Conference, and UW Hillel. The board additionally approved a special grant to Food for Thought Initiative, a local organization working to improve food access and alleviate hunger among Madison Public School students and their families.

These extraordinary times have required us to pivot and be creative in ways we never imagined to continue providing critical services - and we are so grateful for your part in this. You make all of these accomplishments possible with your support of the Jewish Federation of Madison. As we move forward towards the phased re-opening of the Jewish community, the Jewish Federation of Madison, along with our institutional and synagogue partners, will continue to depend on your partnership and support. We will work together, making decisions carefully, guided by our mission of building a strong and unified Jewish community. Thank you for all that you make happen in our community now and for our future.

Wishing you and your loved ones continued health and safety.

Deborah Minkoff

Alan Klugman
Executive Director