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J-Help drive approaches close
July 1st, 2012
As the 2012 Annual Campaign of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation draws to a close, the “second line” campaign for J-Help, Milwaukee’s Jewish community assistance fund, has raised more than $740,400 to date, with donations still being received.
“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of our community,” said J-Help Chair Rick Ruvin. “The campaign started with ground-breaking support from our local synagogues, who partnered with us by delivering a strong message to their congregants during the High Holidays. We were all very touched in March when the students at Milwaukee Jewish Day School chose to give a significant portion of the monies raised through their tzedakah projects for J-Help.”
MJF launched J-Help in response to the unprecedented emergency economic needs of the past few years.
J-Help is the new name for an emergency fund that’s been offering assistance for a number of years. It became the Jewish Community Emergency Economic Assistance Fund in 2009, when a small group of donors responded to the economic downturn of 2008-2009 by setting up a fund to help members of the community pay for life essentials.
MJF leaders initiated the community-wide J-Help campaign in September 2011, after they learned that demand for community assistance dollars was exceeding available resources by more than $15,000 per month, due to persisting financial difficulties and a slow economic recovery.
Jewish Family Services has partnered with MJF by administering the fund and providing intake services. Monies are used to cover utilities, food, shelter, medical services, phone, transportation, clothing, and miscellaneous basic living expenses.
Beneficiaries do not receive cash directly, but help is given in the form of food cards and vouchers for the purchase of household necessities and other goods and services, or money is paid directly to landlords and utility companies.
“Many beneficiaries of J-Help are individuals who had previously enjoyed a middle class lifestyle — in fact, the North Shore is home to a significant number of these individuals and families,” said Sylvan Leabman, President/CEO of Jewish Family Services. “Individuals cannot meet the financial obligation of their basic necessities; they are unable to pay for housing and utilities, and many cannot afford to buy food.”
“We all need to keep in mind that there is a continuing and ongoing need for those who live at the margins of our community most often through no fault of their own: 69 percent of JFS clients reported an annual household income at or below the poverty line,” Leabman added.
“Rick Ruvin has brought an amazing level of dedication to the J-Help campaign,” Leabman said, “and the Milwaukee Jewish community has followed his lead in living out the commitment all Jews have to care for one another. The success of J-Help has been an inspiring demonstration of Jewish values in action.”
The formal, community-wide J-Help initiative will now move into a quieter phase, according to Sheryl Primakow, Interim Executive Director of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
“Going forward, contributions will continue to be accepted, and a fund has been set up within the Jewish Community Foundation,” Primakow said. “It is our hope to establish a permanent endowment to continue to meet these crucial community needs on an ongoing basis.”