It was not the economy nor was it anything you did that warranted these seismic shifts and changes. This is an unprecedented event in the history of the world. People are going to say that there was the Spanish Flu of 1918, but those were not the modern times of 2020, with instant global communications and tens of thousands of scientists working in tandem to find a cure and a vaccine.
In some ways, what took place is akin to musical chairs. The music stopped, or the economy was intentionally shut down, and what it means to have a job or go to work came to a sudden halt for many.
A lot of the talk emanating from Washington has been about that $1,200-per-person and $500-per-child stimulus payment you may have received or are still waiting for. Perhaps that is a sizeable piece of change out in the heartland, but in our frum communities in New York and around the country that might cover three weeks of groceries.
As the number of active cases of COVID-19 drop and we slowly but surely begin to open things up, we will have to come to grips with a new economic reality. A number of the jobs that people were forced to leave as the virus hit may not reappear, not in the near future or any time after that.
Chaim Bess and Nosson Ginsbury of Lawrence are assisting people, many of whom had excellent jobs with solid companies just two months ago, in navigating their way through this sudden need to search for work.
Chaim and Nosson are working closely and exclusively with the 5 Towns Jewish Times, reaching out through these pages to people looking for work as well as to companies that have jobs available and are hiring. Over the last two weeks we have been in contact with more than 50 people looking for work and close to 20 companies that have openings. More information on their efforts can be found at frumbiz.com.
Here in the Five Towns/Far Rockaway community, when there is a financial squeeze like this, the man who is at the center of coordinating aid is Rabbi Dovid Greenblatt of the Davis Memorial Fund. “We are talking about people who for the most part were always self-supporting and never had to deal with a situation like this,” he says. He adds that an occurrence like this can throw a family into a crisis and, as in the past, the Davis Fund is there to assist families and help them through the situation.
Whether it is Mr. Ginsbury, Mr. Bess, Rabbi Greenblatt, a great deal of this type of supportive activity and more is frequently coordinated by divisions of Achiezer under the direction of Boruch Ber Bender. When it comes to this ordeal, Achiezer is playing key roles on all levels. This week, for example, the organization is coordinating testing for antibodies with the hope that those who test positive can donate lifesaving blood plasma. The Orthodox Jewish presence in this drive has been reported to be prominent.
“We are dealing with and guiding families still suffering from the aftereffects of COVID-19,” says Bender. “Some of those families are still struggling.
The Achiezer founder says that the significant crisis out there runs the gamut from people who have not been able to see or interface with their children or grandchildren for almost three months to serious financial challenges that some families have never faced before.
“On the job level,” Boruch Ber says, “this downturn in the economy has affected every industry — real estate, healthcare, accounting, legal services. Many are out of work and do not know if their jobs are coming back.”
As the days advance, the situation out there shifts. The community-wide updates require each group or organization to adjust accordingly and allow that which they do best to merge with the expertise of others.
This week, the Lawrence School District began a massive meal distribution effort. The program is being underwritten by the New York State Education Department and will provide two meals a day — breakfast and lunch — seven days a week to all who sign up. According to district Deputy Superintendent Jeremy Feder, in just 24 hours over 6,500 people signed up for the service. The meals are distributed on alternate days. All meals are glatt kosher and prepared by Elite Caterers.
Also on the production end of the food chain is Kosher Response, with three important elements of filling the void, all developed by Gabriel Boxer, a known foodie who circulates under the moniker Kosher Guru.
The Gural JCC, located in Cedarhurst has a food pantry, funded in part by UJA-Federation, and is providing services to the community. The JCC, in tandem with UJA and 5 Towns Community Chest, is offering a program called E-Cash that helps families with home utility bills, on average between $500 to $1,000 per family.
The JCC is partnering with Amudim to address the uptick in substance abuse in the community during this pandemic. Executive Director Aaron Rosenfeld says JCC social workers continue to work with and counsel the elderly and Holocaust survivors in the community by phone and on Zoom programs where possible.
A crisis like this, despite being extremely unusual, impacts on society and the community in very much the same way as any other crisis. In this case, though, we have the extra element of a health situation that caused instant job loss, precipitating an immediate cash crunch for many and the need to move forward and find work.
“Working people do not want to come to a tzedakah fund unless they absolutely have to,” says Rabbi Greenblatt of the Davis Memorial Fund. He adds that he tries to work with landlord–tenant issues and other situations where payments need to be made but the money is not forthcoming.
People inquire about loans, but, he says, that is not what the Davis Memorial Fund does. Rabbi Greenblatt prefers to provide funding to a family over a few months to help them through an unanticipated difficult time and assist them in adjusting to the new situation, and then they can move forward accordingly.
The bottom line is that there is a need for jobs and a financial helping hand. This is what these agencies and individuals are trying to fix. As our sages have said, “The day is short and the work is great.” That’s never been more true.
Contact Larry Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow 5TJT.com on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.