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“Members of Jewish community need to know where to turn for help”

By Faye Rosenberg-Cohen

Most of us hope to weather the economic storm by tightening our belts, defering major purchases, and waiting for better times. But, the human consequences of economic decline are already becoming evident. The food bins for Jewish Child and Family Service need refilling with protein foods. Some people who have been laid off need help paying the rent. We can guess there is more to come.

Data on the income ranges in our Jewish community from 2001 indicated that about three quarters of us have a household income in the middle or low income range. More than half our families have two working parents and another group of more than 6% are lone parent families with one working adult.  As we read news of more than 2 million jobs lost in the U.S. recently, the potential for this to hit home is ever present.
If the primary earner in a two income family is laid off, EI (Employment Insurance) covers 55% of an individual’s average income, a maximum payment of $447 per week or $23,244 per year.  Since that EI payment is a taxable income, federal and provincial taxes will be deducted. 
EI will be sufficient to cover the bills of most people whose incomes were between $40,000 to $80,000.  A laid off employee may find it difficult to obtain work in the same field. However flexible and willing to learn an employee may be, employers tend to look for skills that minimize the “on the job” training required. 

What happens if one can’t cope financially? The Asper Helping Hands Initiative, a program of  the Jewish Child and Family Service, may be able to offer a small loan, or some financial counseling. The Jewish community has also been blessed with assistance funds and counseling supports  to help through rough times.

The Eve and Harry Vickar Community Assistance Program (VCAP) can help with short term needs (i.e. paying for a month’s rent, or  rendering assistance to cover the costs of a skills upgrading program , or helping university students  cover the cost of books or bus passes).

Layoffs can also mean loss of group insurance benefits, such that people may need assistance in paying for dental work, vision care and other services.  VCAP has helped in this area. Additionally, there have been funds raised last year at the Dare to Dream social event which have helped fill these needs as have other funds made available to Jewish Child and Family Service. These funds, for example, have helped individuals who live with ongoing physical or mental health differences purchase items, such as new glasses or health aids  not covered by Manitoba Health.

Touch economic times also  can mean that it will be  more difficult for a Jewish family to stay connected to the Jewish community.  When it comes to incurring the costs of day school, Jewish camp, synagogue membership, or after school program fees, Jewish families often make difficult financial choices. For a child, these activities are the connections that build their Jewish identity for a lifetime.  Subsidies for Jewish community programs are available to assist lower income families. Whatever your last tax returns show, current economic realities can be taken into account by key community agencies to keep your child connected. It is clearly in the community’s interests to have Jews connected to  Jewish communal life.

Our community has lots to offer and we want people to know that we can be there for them. The Half Shekel Task Force on Poverty, a coalition of Jewish organizations and individuals was formed several years ago by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg to raise awareness of poverty. A major goal in raising awareness was to let everyone participate in helping each other. Jerry Shrom, Chair, collects the stories of projects and collaborations that let everyone help.

For example, you can help by offering someone a  lift if you know they don’t have a car. You can take your gently used clothing to Just a Second, a store run by National Council of Jewish Women, whose proceeds help support the Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre and their seniors programs. Maybe you would like to join with friends and take on a new project?

But most importantly, if you know someone who has been laid off unexpectedly or is struggling with the cost of living for any reason, encourage them to call us. Don’t assume they know which community agencies will help. Please help spread the word that the Jewish community cares about its members,

Contact Jewish Child and Family Service at 477 -7430
Shelley Garfield (Manager, Asper Helping Hand Initiative & Vickar Community Assistance Program) at 338-7132

Just a Second at 474-1245

Faye Rosenberg-Cohen for information at 477-7422

Do someone you know a favour and pass on the phone numbers. Do the community the favour of helping them stay connected.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.