I hope that, despite the coronavirus and the many disruptions and uncertainty it is causing, you are staying healthy and will still manage to enjoy Purim tonight and tomorrow. While we weren't thinking about the holiday (or the virus) when we decided to schedule the National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty newsletter for the second week of each month, sending this out on Purim feels right, since giving gifts to those in need is one of the holiday's mitzvot.
Of course our work in this group isn't merely to give to people experiencing poverty, but to develop comprehensive, coordinated solutions and address the structural challenges that make it so difficult for people to escape poverty. With that in mind, I'm delighted this month to highlight the important work happening in Philadelphia, where five Jewish agencies have come together to do just that. Know of another bright spot or something else we should be aware of as we tackle Jewish poverty? Don't be shy — we want to hear from you!
This newsletter also shares information about our upcoming meeting and work being done to alleviate poverty in the San Diego Jewish community. Please let us know if you have news to share for next month's newsletter, and please stay healthy!
Deena K. Fuchs
Executive Vice President
Jewish Funders Network
—Save the Date—
Our next meeting will be held at the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA)’s Third Annual Conference – May 3-5, in Dallas. Please join us on Tuesday, May 5, for a post-conference workshop designed to provide opportunities for shared learning, issues-oriented workgroup planning, and community and regional collaboration. If you are part of one of the affinity group’s six sub-groups interested in developing an anti-poverty initiative in your community, or if you want to help catalyze this national movement, this meeting is for you! Please RSVP here.
—News from the Field—
San Diego Jews Convene on Poverty
On Feb. 26, San Diego’s Jewish Community Foundation, Jewish Family Service, and Jewish Federation — as well as the Isakow Foundation, held a community-wide convening on tackling poverty in the local Jewish community. Participants explored how to develop an integrated model of navigating and delivering services to those experiencing poverty while avoiding unnecessary bureaucracy and building on the strengths of various Jewish, secular and governmental service providers.
At the convening the four partners shared this new report, which estimates that poverty touches up to 20 percent of the approximately 50,000 Jewish households in San Diego County. The report, based on analysis of previous community studies and interviews with relevant community professionals, found that local Jews in poverty are often unaware of their eligibility for government benefits and that there currently is no centralized navigation system of financial and other resources to serve the Jewish community. Read the report here.
Philadelphia Coordinates Services for Jews Experiencing Poverty
Seniors enjoy a program at Federation Housing, where they have access to services from various agencies.
In Philadelphia, more than a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, making it the poorest of America’s 10 largest cities. And a new Jewish Federation community study finds that 10 percent of the Jewish population is at an income level low enough for food stamp eligibility, even as only 43 percent of those are actually receiving food stamps.
Frustrated by their inability to meet needs within the Jewish community, particularly to lift individuals out of poverty, five of the metropolitan area’s Jewish social service agencies began meeting in August to work more collaboratively on Jewish poverty.
With help from Compass, a local organization providing pro bono expertise to nonprofits, the groups — Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia (JFCS), JEVS Human Services, the Abramson Center for Jewish Life (senior care), Federation Housing (affordable senior housing) and KleinLife (the Philadelphia JCC) — are interviewing clients and analyzing data to determine whether any services can be consolidated and what more can be done to help the clients escape poverty.
“We’ve learned there’s not as much overlap of services as we thought,” explains Paula Goldstein, president and CEO of JFCS. “Each organization does something slightly different, but we all rely on each other’s services to enhance the quality of life for our clients, because none of us has enough resources to do it on our own.”
While the collaborative is still in research mode, Goldstein says members are leaning toward recommending that the Federation Housing model be expanded in order to provide affordable housing for people under age 62. In addition to addressing the critical need for housing, that model, with its centralized residential communities, enables the community to have a one-stop office on-site where residents can access services from multiple Jewish agencies at once.
“We are a work in progress, but hell bent on finding a way to collaborate, because we know we need to,” Goldstein says.
To learn more, contact Paula Goldstein at PGoldstein@jfcsphilly.org.
—In the News—
City Council Releases Plan to Reduce Philadelphia Poverty by 25 Percent (Philly Voice)
Women Holocaust Survivors Find Joy in Fighting Poverty (New York Times)
2020 Federal Poverty Guidelines: Why It Might Get Harder to Be Considered Poor Under Trump (USA Today)
Poverty Is All About Personal Stress, Not Laziness (Bloomberg)
Can Chicago Address Poverty Without Displacing the Rich? (Nonprofit Quarterly)
Founded in 2019, the National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty is a collaborative of funders, Jewish Federations, direct service providers, researchers, media outlets, and advocates dedicated to fighting poverty in the American Jewish community. Learn more here.