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August 30, 2014 | 4th Elul 5774

Creating a Support Group

By Rebecca Schwartz, MSW

Creating a Support Group for Those Facing Economic Challenges

  • Identify the primary aims and purposes of the support group.
    These might include education, shared conversation, relieving stress and reducing stigma, and networking with agencies and employers.
  • Determine who will facilitate the group.
    This could be the job of a rabbi or educator, social or congregant.

The first hurdle is encouraging congregants to come forward and identify themselves.

Outreach and Recruitment

  • Have the rabbi announce the group each week during Shabbat services, and include in temple email and print bulletins.
  • Issue a press release to the local Jewish and non-Jewish media announcing the first informational meeting and providing contact numbers and email addresses to answer questions about the group.
  • Place printed flyers in visible places around the synagogue, including sending them home with religious school students.
  • Ask the rabbi to offer a sermon on economic issues, asking for help, and working together as a community in hard times. Work to dispel the stigma around unemployment and financial hardship in our often well-to-do communities.

Getting started

  • Hold the first meeting in a place that is either very private, or very busy, to protect those who wish to attend but are afraid to be seen attending.
    A private home may work for small or rural congregations. Larger or more urban ones might want to consider the local JCC or another place where attendees could be there for a variety of reasons.
  • Use local resources such as Jewish Family and Children's Services, Jewish Vocational Services and Hebrew Free Loan to provide speakers to familiarize congregants with these agencies and the services they offer.
  • Ask an individual who was instrumental in organizing this effort to speak personally about their struggle and challenges. This will further reduce the stigma of talking about economic concerns and asking for assistance.
  • If a congregant who employs large numbers of people can provide some short-term or part-time work ask them to attend a session and meet the congregants there.
  • Ask congregants who can help with resumes, job-hunting, interview practice to lead a session. Invite youth group members or others to teach computer skills, including how to job-hunt online and email a resume.
  • Once the first session has taken place, the group can decide where and how often to continue to meet. Determine whether daytime or evening is better for those job-hunting and/or in need of childcare.

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