Today’s guest columnist is Danny Cohn.
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Just about everyone told us we were crazy to move to Birmingham.
Then right when I moved, family yet to come, the world was hit with the Coronavirus.
So I’m new to Birmingham—starting a new job and a new life—all alone.
I arrived in Birmingham on March 9th as the new CEO of the Birmingham Jewish Federation. My family relocated to Omaha, Nebraska five years ago having spent the previous 15 years in Chicago.
Though I was hoping for the best, I was not prepared for the incredible generosity of my new community.
What people don’t seem to understand is that Birmingham is not only a great place to raise a family, but as I have come to realize over the last eight weeks, a great place to set an example of how people take care of others during a crisis. It’s only been eight weeks, but the sense of community here is astounding.
Many people don’t realize how few Jews live here—only about 6,000 of the 1.1 million people in our metropolitan area. (Half of one percent)
The Levite Jewish Community has provided more than 1,300 meals for those in need, delivered 225 perishable and non-perishable food packages for senior living facilities, put together 75 non-perishable food kits for HICA and serves essential worker families through its Operation Cares Camp. In addition, the LJCC is serving as a mobile site for the Community Food Bank and has provided more than 300 grocery boxes for those in need.
Since pivoting from face-to-face service to a new normal, Collat Jewish Family Services has served 191 clients. Each of these clients received wellness and needs assessment calls at least weekly. These regular calls are reducing the isolation and loneliness so many are experiencing at this time. Additionally, CJFS assists clients in getting the food/medication/household supplies they need safely, either through delivery services or through its own staff and volunteers.
CJFS has also provided financial assistance for rent, utilities, food and medications to people who are experiencing financial hardships directly related to COVID-19.
The United Way of Central Alabama along with our Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham are models for other communities on how to do things right by providing grants that are successfully reaching those in need throughout all of Birmingham. The people of Birmingham are generous which has been shown through the amount of monies flowing into these organizations.
For the last 84 years the Birmingham Jewish Federation has served as the central philanthropic arm of the Birmingham Jewish Community, providing funding for the community’s most critical needs. I am honored to be at the helm of this organization. I am also proud to say we are able to financially support all of the institutions mentioned above, as well as communities abroad, such as Israel, that need our help through these unprecedented times.
When people question our move to Birmingham, my reply is – just wait until you visit and you will understand. Aside from a strong philanthropic arm and beautiful scenery, we have collaboration, not just philanthropically, but with government and NGOs that want to support each other, not only in times of crisis but on a daily basis. I look forward to forging these relationships after we as a community successfully emerge from this pandemic.
Birmingham isn’t a “come back town” it’s a “run to town”.
I knew from our visits Birmingham was beautiful, I knew that residents were kind, the cost of living was low, and the food scene was on fire. And I knew that the health care system here was second to none. What I didn’t know was that southern hospitality isn’t just home hospitality, but caring for the community as well – a community I am now proud to call home.
Danny Cohn, a recent transplant from Omaha, NE, is the newly appointed CEO of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, the Jewish Community’s central fundraising, community relations and community development agency.
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org.