At the end of last week, I received a phone call from a gentleman, let's call him Bill, asking if I could meet with him on Friday. Being open to meeting anyone in the community, we set a mutually acceptable time without even knowing the context of the conversation.
Bill arrived in my office and we began to talk. Bill, a man in his late 40s, moved to Portland several years ago to be closer to family and for a new employment opportunity. Unfortunately, the job market is very weak in Portland and things are not going well. Bill recently went to a "support group" held at a local synagogue for those who are unemployed or seeking employment assistance and shared with me that the people in attendance were frustrated, scared, concerned, and unsure where else to turn -- yet comforted to be together.
Following my relatively brief conversation with Bill, I immediately contacted the two rabbis Bill had mentioned (he reached out to them for support, as well) and Jewish Family and Child Service (JFCS). I wanted to better understand what services our community is currently providing, and perhaps what more Federation can be doing. Emergency financial aid is available. Counseling services to deal with stress and anxiety are available. Support groups have been formed. And several professionals are providing skill building programs (resume writing, interview skills, etc.).
This is a role that the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland has been playing for 90 years. Whether during the immigration of the early 1920s, the Great Depression, or today's continued economic uncertainty, your generous contribution to Federation helps to make these types of programs possible. In fact, Federation has already provided additional emergency financial aid to JFCS once this year. Yet there is more we need to do!
Most of all, Bill said people want/need assistance "from their Jewish brothers and sisters to help them find new employment opportunities" within Greater Portland.
Bill is not alone. The latest statistics put Oregon's unemployment rate at 10.6%, one of the highest in the country. People are hurting. And others are scared that they, too, could lose their job at any moment. In fact, I have several friends across the country who recently lost their jobs. They are all worried about what will happen to themselves, their families, and their finances. Our support is needed in so many ways!
Here is how you can help...Do you know of possible job opportunities? Can you provide leads? Are you willing to help individuals network throughout the community? If so, please contact me and I will be happy to forward your information.
In difficult times, people turn to their mishpocha and their community. Let's be there for them now!
PS -- Mazel tov to our Super Sunday Chairs, Mindy and Mark Zeitzer, for an incredible Super Sunday last weekend. Over 500 people in our community made their commitment to Federation's Annual Campaign. We invite you to do the same by clicking here. You can help Bill, and many more in our community, with your generosity.