JUF partners with rabbis to help community in crisis

When Susan’s* alcoholic husband began drinking more heavily after losing his job, she didn’t call a support center for help. She called her rabbi.
“Rabbis have been on the frontlines of this economic storm, supplying spiritual guidance, emergency funds and emotional counseling to individuals and families in turmoil,” said Steven B. Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. “They play an extremely important role in administering help to those dealing with depression, substance abuse, domestic problems and other serious issues caused or exacerbated by job loss, financial stresses, and other recession-related consequences.”

 JUF has been making every effort to give rabbis the critical support they need. In November, JUF’s Jewish Community Emergency Resiliency Team (J-CERT) began providing rabbis emergency response training sessions to teach them to better administer ‘psychological first aid’.

“Among its objectives, J-CERT’s program will help rabbis recognize the signs of a person in crisis, when professional help or other professional intervention is necessary, and how to respond if a traumatic event—such as a suicide or anti-Semitic act—were to occur in the community,” said David Rubovits, JUF Vice President of Planning and Allocations. 

The JUF-supported Jewish Community Abuse, Resources, Education and Solutions (JCARES) recently launched a new pilot program, the Partnership for Safe Synagogues (PASS), thanks to a grant from the Michael Reese Health Trust. PASS will educate synagogue clergy, professional staff and lay leaders at 4-5 pilot synagogues about how to respond to congregants living with domestic abuse. 

“One of the things that pushes an abuser to violence is economic stress,” said Michael Iser, Chair of JCARES Synagogue and Institutional Outreach Task Force. “By engaging congregations in essential education and policy implementation, the PASS program helps to create an atmosphere of safety that encourages congregants to seek support, positioning synagogues to respond appropriately, and strengthening their capacity as places of spiritual healing and guidance.”

JUF, through its emergency initiative J-HELP, has also made approximately $170,000 available to the rabbi’s discretionary funds of 116 congregations in metropolitan Chicago. Rabbis are free to distribute the money as they see fit.

JCARES and JCERT are collaborations administered in partnership with Jewish Child and Family Services (JCFS). For humanitarian assistance contact JCFS at (312) 357-4800 or visit www.jcfschicago.org. For information about JCARES or JHELP visit www.jcareschicago.org or www.juf.org/jhelp. For a list of JUF-supported programs and services, visit www.juf.org/guide.

*Not her real name.

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