Businesses, booming just a few weeks ago, are now struggling for survival. Upwards of five million initial unemployment claims are getting processed weekly in the U.S. Enter Far Rockaway native Yitzy (Isaac) Sobel, who thinks to himself that something must be done.
“Our neighbors, friends, and relatives, the very fabric of our kehillos and community … how will they get through this economically tumultuous time?” Yitzy ponders.
Yitzy calls his brother Mordy, who has been involved in nonprofits for years. Together, they discuss the economic meltdown manifesting in front of their eyes. Mordy and Yitzy agree — something must be done, now.
Thus, the 5TFR Jobs Task Force at shulnetworkjobs.org is born.
The idea is simple: harness the power of the 5TFR shul network to connect employers and employees.
What follows is a brief Q&A with Yitzy.
5TJT: How does the Jobs Task Force work?
YS: It starts when someone in the shul gets excited about helping people. From there, the rabbi and the president appoint a captain to represent the shul in this initiative. The captain is responsible, in turn, to get the message out and reach out to people in the shul who might be hiring or are looking for a job.
5TJT: Does the Jobs Task Force do anything aside from coordinating efforts with shuls?
YS: Yes. We have an intake process in which we reach out to every employer and employee who signs up with us, to gain an understanding of what they are looking for. This screening process helps ensure that the right candidates get routed to the right companies.
This intake process is run by a network of volunteers. We also have volunteers who can review résumés to make sure that each candidate comes across their best.
5TJT: So you are basically like a shadchan for jobs, or recruiters working on behalf of the shul network.
YS: Sort of.
5TJT: Why are you doing this in partnership with the shuls?
YS: Each shul is its own community, and an immensely powerful one at that. A shul is deeply connected to its kehillah. Many organizations stand on the periphery of the community and cannot achieve 1/100th of what the shuls can achieve, when they work together. Furthermore, the shul network serves as a built-in screening process to assure employers that they are getting top-notch talent.
5TJT: How do you help employers?
YS: It is remarkably simple. Employers get top-shelf talent, filtered through the shul network, for free.
5TJT: How do you help employees?
YS: The biggest benefit to employees is that we make a concerted effort to source jobs through the shul network. This means that there is some “in” to get an interview, someone to go to bat for you, a foot in the door, if you will. The shul captains serve as a bridge to others in the shul network, to help employees get in front of potential employers.
5TJT: How can others get involved?
YS: It is going to take a village. Since we are run by a network of selfless volunteers, there are many opportunities for those who want to contribute to this effort.
Opportunities include intake coordinators, job “shadchanim,” shul captains, marketing experts, tech experts, content creators, employer outreach, résumé reviewers, and many other functions.
There is no minimum time commitment asked of the volunteers. We only ask that the volunteers are committed to helping their neighbors in the shul network.
5TJT: What if somebody is unsure whether a volunteer opportunity is right for him?
YS: If you want to get involved but would like to learn more first, visit ShulNetworkJobs.org/volunteer.
On top of that, everyone can pick up the phone and call 10 people in his or her contacts to see who is hiring or who needs a job. I learned this approach from a dear friend who is also in the sugya of helping connect employers and employees.
5TJT: What is up next for the Jobs Task Force?
YS: Up next?! We are just getting started.
But we are also working together with some of our volunteers to put together the first-ever job fair in this community, virtually, bli neder!
Mostly, we are laser-focused on connecting employers and employees in the shul network. We are running this like a start-up and learning as we go.
5TJT: How is the Task Force funded?
YS: We made a conscious decision not to accept any donations until we feel that we have proven our value to the community. Until such time that our lack of fundraising hampers our efforts in helping the tzibbur, we will not actively fundraise.
5TJT: Is it only for 5T/FR shuls?
YS: Unfortunately, the Five Towns and Far Rockaway communities are not the only ones affected by high levels of unemployment. Communities as far and wide as Boca Raton, Florida; Manalapan, New Jersey; Flatbush, Brooklyn, and many others have reached out about replicating this in their towns. If we could help provide guidance and know how to facilitate efforts in those communities, we are just a phone call away. However, we feel that it is our obligation to help our community first—Aniyei ircha kodmim. Community first will guide us, but we will try to help others, too, if we can.
5TJT: How many shuls are signed up?
YS: B’H, we have three shuls on board so far, including Beis Tefila in Inwood (Rabbi Weinberger), K’hal Machzikei Torah in Far Rockaway (Rabbi Greenberg), and Irving Place Minyan in Woodmere (Rabbi Feigenbaum). We are in touch with another six to eight shuls throughout the community and are in discussions to get them on board as well.
5TJT: Which other organizations are involved?
YS: Moshe Brandsdorfer of JCCRP was the first to jump in and offer to assist in any way that he could. Moshe then connected us with Natasha Srulowitz and Adele Dubin, from WayFind Careers, a local career services company. We are in preliminary talks with Achiezer, and we are working with many other community askanim, well-connected people.
5TJT: How can other community organizations help?
YS: The Jobs Task Force is touching many of the same lives as other community organizations. We welcome all partnership opportunities.
5TJT: Any closing thoughts?
YS: Friends, we have a tremendous eis tzarah in front of us and we need all hands on deck. Do not just turn the page and move on to the next article. Call someone in your shul and ask them to sign up for this program today at ShulNetworkJobs.org/shul-sign-up.
Yitzy Sobel is the director of finance at SeniorCare EMS, and a board member at Queens College. Mordy Sobel is a veteran chef who has been involved in nonprofits for years. Mordy runs a night kollel in Brooklyn. To get in touch with Yitzy or Mordy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.