Due to the efforts of close to a dozen volunteers from the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC) program in downtown Manhattan, close to 175 eligible New Yorkers were able to get their COVID-19 vaccine appointments scheduled at local points of distribution.
Since the Federal Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine on December 11, the rollout process has been marred with questions on how the average citizen would be able to register for their appointment to get the shot. Following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s January 11 announcement that seniors, educators and other essential personnel would be eligible to register for appointments despite the limited available doses, appointments through the city’s and state’s web-portals became a hard-to-find commodity. For many, the registration process was complicated with seniors being the least equipped to navigate the systems.
Realizing the needs of those in their local community and how they as students and OU-JLIC alumni could help, the group, headed by OU-JLIC Downtown Co-Director Rabbi Joe Wolfson began to put out feelers within their local community to assist those in need of assistance scheduling. Through a Google form the group of a dozen volunteers has already been able to help close to 175 neighbors that include clients of homeless shelters and domestic violence centers. The Office of State Senator Simcha Felder directs constituents who call him, to the OU-JLIC volunteers.
“We can do more,” said Wolfson. “It’s been our privilege since the start of the pandemic to connect young Jewish people with those who are in need. This is just the next stage of a project that began a year ago and I’m immensely proud of all the amazing things our students, alumni and young professionals have achieved.”
“I was so appreciative that Rabbi Wolfson and his team of students and alumni were able to get me an appointment so quickly,” said Jeff Vogel, a 67-year-old teacher for New York City’s Department of Education who despite being eligible for the vaccine on January 11, was unable to find an appointment for over a month. “It is an incredible project, and their impact is enormous. They helped me navigate the system.”
Due to the group’s efforts, the Lower East Side resident got his first shot at his local Rite Aid pharmacy on February 12 and will receive his second dose in the coming days. Vogel learned about the program through an email about it from Rabbi Zvi Romm to congregants of the Bialystoker Synagogue.
The group is looking forward to helping even more people. Those in need of assistance can register at: http://bit.ly/let-us-get-you-a-vaccine-appointment.
Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union, (OU), serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, Israel Free Spirit Birthright, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs.