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Caring for Jews in Need: The Impact of our Work in L.A.

Our Caring for Jews in Need (CJIN) strategic initiative partners with a wide range of diverse social service programs in Los Angeles, Israel, and around the world. Since nothing is better than seeing our Federation’s work in action, we took our CJIN Committee members, together with members of The Jewish Federation’s professional staff responsible for the CJIN strategic initiative, on a “mini-mission” to visit three of our partner programs in L.A. in order to get a hands-on look at our impact on the ground.

We began with a visit to the Community Connections program which is on site at the Jewish Family Service SOVA Community Food and Resource center on Pico (as well as the two other JFS SOVA locations). This collaborative program between Jewish Family Service, Bet Tzedek, and Jewish Vocational Services offers free wrap around services including legal counseling, job counseling, and food stamp and Medi-Cal enrollment. By having so many services on site, clients can get immediate access to a variety of support services including our Federation’s financial assistance grants.

Our committee next walked up Pico to visit the Grocery Delivery program at Tomchei Shabbos, which delivers kosher Shabbat food packages to low income Jewish families to ensure they have nutritious meals every Shabbat. We came during their weekly packing program, and joined Tomchei’s dedicated volunteers in assembling care packages before they are discreetly delivered to clients. It was heartwarming to see children as young as two years old lugging egg cartons and challah with the rest of us in the spirit of gemilut hasadim, acts of loving kindness. The younger children also wrote warm greetings and created joyous pictures on the cartons, which gave the process a human touch.

We then re-grouped over a quick dinner in a local kosher restaurant. Lori Klein, Federation’s Senior Vice President for CJIN, stood at the head of our table to give some background of the next stop on our journey. There was a couple with their children at a table next to ours, who asked if we minded if they could eavesdrop on the conversation. A while later as they were leaving, the husband came over to Lori and indicated how moved they were by the partners we were going to visit, and put a business card, and what we later found to be a check for $500 made out to Aish Tamid, in her hand. This was a truly goose bump moment. Emotion amongst the group ran high, as there was a feeling of recognition of the importance of our and the Federation’s mission, as well as a reinforcement of the basic kindness and caring of our extended community.    

The final stop on our mini-mission was a visit to the Drop-In Center run by our partner Aish Tamid, which offers a safe, supportive environment for at-risk boys and young adults every night of the week. We toured Aish Tamid’s huge building which hosts a variety of rooms including a music room, gym, pool room and more. We were lucky to be there at a time when game 7 of the NBA finals was playing on the second floor while guitar practice was happening on the first; needless to say there was a lot going on. We got to meet some of the boys who see this special place as a home away from home, and the kind of supportive environment they need to gain the skills and confidence to become more self sufficient. 

It was a long day, but we are so glad we had the opportunity to see our Federation’s work in action. There are many in our community who are struggling every day, from the mom and dad who can’t afford to put food on the table every Shabbat, to the young boy who dropped out of high school and doesn’t know where to turn. The programs we visited on the mini-mission, as well as the many other Jewish social service programs our Federation supports, remind us how important it is to strengthen the Jewish social safety net here in Los Angeles. As the Co-Chairs of the Caring for Jews in Need Committee, we’re proud to lead our Federation’s effort to build and strengthen that safety net every day.  

For more information on our Caring for Jews in Need strategic initiative, contact Lori Klein at LKlein@JewishLA.org.

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