Monday, October 26, 2009

Pooling forces to keep people afloat

The Biblical figure Noah is known for keeping his people afloat. That's what the creators of the Project Noah task force hope to do in Charlotte's Jewish community.

As the economy soured, the city's rabbis began hearing from congregants who'd lost jobs and who have gone through savings – and didn't know how they'd pay the next month's mortgage. Some needed home repairs that they couldn't afford, or counseling, or food.

Jewish organizations came to the rescue, but with varying results. So the organizations inside and outside of Shalom Park, the campus of Jewish organizations and synagogues off Providence Road, formed a task force to present a united response to needs created by the deepening recession.

"We wanted to build something together to have a greater force … and keep everyone afloat," said Stephanie Starr, executive director of Jewish Family Services, which is leading the effort. "It is so hard to get people to reach out for help. There is something ingrained in us, as Jews, that we have to take care of ourselves."

Project Noah is reaching out.

In a letter to Charlotte Jews, task force chair Karen Knoble asked Jews to practice "gemilut hasadim" (the giving of loving kindness like feeding the hungry) and extend a hand to someone "in need or feeling anxious."

"No one is immune," Knoble wrote. "In fact, many of those hit hardest are middle-class, white-collar employees who have traditionally supported others in need."

She's right. No one's immune. So the task force is rounding up carpenters, plumbers and electricians to volunteer a few hours to repair homes; accountants to help with finances; lawyers to explore legal matters and counselors to provide stress therapy.

The task force has joined arms with churches – such as St. Gabriel Catholic Church and Myers Park Baptist Church – to create workshops on managing money, or learning to use public networking like Facebook to enhance a business or job searches. Its BYOB (Be Your Own Boss) will discuss opening a new business. Its Back2Work program places the unemployed in unpaid internships to learn new skills and network and give a reason for getting out of bed. The No Fuss Meals program plans meals on a budget.

The project has a Web site with a job board for employers to post open positions and the unemployed to find jobs.

"We are not only offering spiritual guidance, we are offering hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves, practical solutions," said Sara-Lynne Levine, the task force's volunteer communications manager. "It's a comprehensive effort to get people help."

The services are limited to people in the Jewish community. The programs with churches are open to everyone.

"We only have a limited number of volunteers, at this point, so we're trying to help our clients first," Starr said. "As that list of volunteers grows, then hopefully we can help more and more people throughout the community."

For more information?
Go to for a comprehensive list of programs, services and activities. Or call Project Noah at Jewish Family Services at 704-364-6594.


You Know I'm Right said...

Jews are by far the most affluent ethnic/religious group in the entire USA. In Charlotte and surrounding areas, Jews tend to live in the wealthiest areas and work in the highest-paying jobs.

Instead of Jews seeking out more charity, they should be the ones helping everyone else out.