Free and/or low cost ideas for providing support and programs.
Compiled by the Department of Jewish Family Concerns
This is a time when no one should be left to feel that they are lvado, alone.
This is a time for community and relationships to be enhanced and expanded so that our congregations are responsive to and involved with those who are hurting.
Developing congregational/community support systems for those whose economic situation has become precarious: Board and staff members with financial acumen and awareness of community resources (Jewish Free Loan Societies, rent and mortgage assistance programs, low interest loan programs,) can offer advice for those whose resources are suddenly very strained as they attempt to avoid drastic life changes when they have experienced a sudden reversal.At High Holydays many congregations collect food and/or winter coats for the poor. While they should definitely continue to do this, even more needed this year, congregations can also talk about those within the community who are struggling and let them know who to contact for assistance. This can include a congregational point-person, and also identifying community resources such as JFCS, Hebrew Free Loan, etc.
Creating networking and advising programs for those needing employment: At High Holy Day Services each congregant can be asked to fill out a form indicating if they may have job possibilities or have professional connections that may be useful. Referrals can also be made to community organizations providing this service. Congregants with experience as career counselors can offer pro-bono help for congregants seeking jobs or to determine new career direction. Synagogue Executive Directors, Program Directors or Caring Committee chairs can help with the above. Email and printed bulletins can call for those with financial/job-training experience to identify themselves to the temple office if they can offer these services.
Offering low cost recreational activities for individuals, couples and families: movie nights, board game afternoons, hiking, biking, apple picking and other low cost excursions. When finances are strained family relationships can be stressed; time spent doing something fun with others helps to cement and strengthen bonds. Create weekend all day recreational programs for kidsconsider winter and spring recess rec programs for those whose families can no longer afford vacation trips but have working parents. Host pot-luck suppers and brunches that will attract different age groups by offering discussions and activities before and after.
Maintaining health is essential: Seek volunteers to lead exercise, yoga, meditation programs. Seek donors and agency supports to help defray the costs of co-pays for medicines for those who may otherwise cut dosages of needed drugs.
Provide free babysitting and respite care for those with small children or frail family members since funds may not longer be available for these services. Encourage bnai mitzvah, youth group and confirmation students to volunteer for babysitting; ask capable adult congregants to volunteer once or twice a year to offer an afternoon or evening of respite care.Youth Advisors, Educators and Preschool Directors can help organize the above. Caring Committee leaders may help to identify those families experiencing a high level of stress.
Membership Concerns: Some families may have allowed their synagogue membership to lapse because of embarrassment over asking for reduced dues; reach out to former members or those in economic hardship by reminding all that lack of funds should never preclude membership. Be aware of heightened need for community and faith during this difficult time and reach out to those who are unaffiliated. Encourage members to bring friends to services who may not have attended before.
Talking helps: Be extra mindful that seemingly casual conversations may be the way individuals raise serious concerns---consider offering a time for a lengthier private conversation when mention is made of job loss, financial stress, depression or family tension. Organize support groups and/or have referral info available for where such groups exist in the community. In times of heightened stress it is especially important to have posted information about local meetings of groups addressing Substance Abuse, Domestic Violence, etc. This topic needs to be addressed from the bimah, in synagogue newsletters and in conversations to help reduce stigma and increase congregants comfort level in asking for help. Synagogues could appoint a single contact person who is able to comfortably discuss sensitive issues and ask congregants to go through that person to offer or ask for help. This could be the Exec Dir, the rabbis assistant, or other appropriate individuals.