Tag Archives: poverty

Go You Forth-Four Years After Hurricane Katrina

Go You Forth

A concert will be held at the Touro Synagogue on Oct 15,2009, followed by an authentic New Orleans Shabbaton on Oct 16-17.  The show will feature Neshama Carlebach and her band, the soulful Green Pastures Baptist Choir,  the one and only Ellis Marsalis (http://www.ellismarsalis.com) and other local musicians and artists. We hope to raise significant funds at this event and also ignite a national consciousness campaign that focuses on the rebuilding of this great American city, devastated four years ago by Hurricane Katrina.

Go You Forth will benefit the St. Bernard Project, run by an incredible and tireless group of people who have dedicated their lives to bringing people back to their homes after the storm.  It may shock you to know that there are still over 15,000 people homeless, living in trailers or in their own condemned properties, sometimes with several other families.  Many of these people have contracted health problems from inhaling the formaldehyde of these FEMA trailers that were intended to be occupied for only 6 months. Through the St. Bernard Project, building one home only costs $12-15,000.   Please click here and sign to be a part of this mission,  no gift is too large or too small.


Imagine what it means to a family to come home after four years of being displaced .But a home needs sustenance as well and so we’ve also engaged MAZON: a Jewish Response to Hunger, www.Mazon.org to help in the healing process. This incredible organization creates channels to feed people all over the world, not only physically but also spiritually and emotionally. Offering desperately needed relief to families still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, MAZON made joint grants totaling over $1 million.  MAZON supports a wide variety of programs geared towards helping hurricane victims and their families pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and acquire the skills they needed to get back on their feet.

MAZON has funded nearly $500,000 to help support Katrina victims through non-profit organizations such as food banks, pantries, and advocacy groups that serve children, adults and seniors.  Examples of specific organizations include the Acadiana Outreach Center, Food Net (for the purchase of food), Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge, the Houston Food Bank, and the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, among others.

Our goal is to fund the building of 30 houses, knowing that each completed house is a miracle, and to help MAZON continue in their mission to feed the hungry.  Even after October 15th, we hope to continue our efforts until every person in New Orleans has a way to get home; until all those who are wandering can receive the stability, sustenance and peace of mind they need to truly heal from the trauma they’ve endured.   It’s ambitious, but we know we can do it.

Another goal we hope to accomplish with this event: the revitalization of the local Jewish community. You may not know this, but one of the unfortunate effects of the hurricane was to drive out nearly half of the local Jews. Out of the 10,000 Jews who lived in New Orleans prior to 2006, only 6,000 remain.  Spirits are high in this amazing City and it would be our greatest joy to bring back the diverse and beautiful Jewish community of New Orleans through Go You Forth, inspiring singles, couples and families to move to this awesome (and affordable) city.

Friends, we are asking you to become a part of Go You Forth. There are so many ways to help:

  • Come down to New Orleans for the concert, Shabbaton and our special Sunday food delivery project
  • Give a donation to The Saint Bernard Project and Mazon
  • Mobilize your synagogue, school, community center or book group to sponsor the cost of building a house…or even a room.  If you can gather a group of people to build a home, or even just a bathroom or a kitchen, you would be breathing life into a community that so desperately needs our support.
  • Spread the word about our efforts

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

To make a contribution for this event visit www.mazon.org/donate-now. Please indicate that your donation is for “New Orleans.”


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Making the Grade

A MAZON donor was recently highlighted in The News-Gazette  newspaper of Champaign-Urbana, IL.

August 13, 2009

Making the Grade

“For his bar mitzvah – a coming-of-age ceremony for Jews – Saul Downie elected to give gifts instead of receive them and collected thousands of dollars for two charities in the process.

The Urbana Middle School student raised more than $3,000 for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, requesting guests at his June ceremony contribute to the organization’s Back Pack Buddies Program (a joint effort with Junior League) in a note saying: “As a growing adolescent I know how much food I need (a lot), and as an athlete, I know the importance of eating right. Many kids are not as privileged as I am to be able to always open a fridge or cupboard and have something waiting for them to eat.”

With the same mission, Downie also raised more than $4,400 for Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, a national organization that works to help feed people of all religions and backgrounds around the world.”

Many thanks to Saul!

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TAKE ACTION: Support The Measuring American Poverty Act of 2009

UPDATE 8/18/09: Just learned of an online petition in support of HR 2909 at Change.org’s “Poverty in America” section. Take a minute to make a difference!

Irene Schild Caminer wrote this guest blog.

Introduction: Measuring Poverty

Finally after years of waiting for a new approach, Rep. Jim McDermott (D- WA) has introduced a bill providing for one year to plan and recommend a new measurement of poverty.   The U.S.  has been measuring poverty in the same manner since the early 1960s. The existing poverty determinations are based upon a stagnant and outdated method that fails to meet the needs of those that are truly impoverished—our fellow Americans that on a daily basis have to make difficult choices between food, shelter and medical care.   Decisions relating to poverty need to be made based upon the changing economy and public policy.  In 1995, the National Academy of Sciences recommended a change in the metrics based on needs rather than deprivation.   With this Act, the U.S. takes a 21st century approach to measuring poverty that is fiscally sound, data driven and fair across our country.

Some critics may ask why has it taken so long; will a 15 year-old measurement work today; will it cost us more; will this lead to a real plan to end hunger in our country over the next decade?     I can’t answer these questions but this administration and Congress are ready to make change.  Here is what I have learned about Rep. McDermott’s Bill and seek your support for any amendments, if appropriate, passage and appropriations for implementation.

Name of Bill:  The Measuring American Poverty Act of 2009 (the “Act”)

This Act refers to the current poverty index or threshold as the Traditional Poverty Measure.  The Traditional Poverty Measure is based upon 1960s information that has been annually adjusted for inflation.  The Traditional Poverty Measure was an absolute measure and determined the poverty threshold based on the data that 1/3 of income was spent on food and chose the economy food plan (the least costly of four nutritionally adequate food plans designed by the Department of Agriculture) for its dollar amount….food …yes that is it.  No other real measures were taken into account.  This Measure was the basis for all forms of assistance including food, shelter, utility assistance and medical care.  More importantly one has to fall below the Measure to qualify for assistance.  We have been overlooking or providing aid to those that may not need it by failing to determine whether the basic needs are being met for American families.

Under the Act, the Modern Poverty Threshold, a more accurate approach to measuring poverty, is sought.  The Modern Poverty Threshold will include “Market Income” including such things as income, clothing and shelter, as well as, adjustments for expenses, such as medical, childcare and transportation expenses.  Also, included in the Modern Poverty Threshold is “Disposable Income.” Disposable Income includes taxes, adjustments for tax credits, food, shelter and utility assistance received from state and federal agencies. Finally, geographic adjustments will be allowed based upon the locale in which a recipient (urban, rural and suburban) lives. Thus, the distribution of funds will be more fairly allocated based upon the true cost of living in that community.  So, for example, a family living in a large metropolitan city may be eligible for more dollars with the acknowledgement that basic needs cost more there than in a small rural area.  Further, with this approach those in need of assistance will be able to obtain the assistance in the appropriate form.  Those in need will not have to sell their food stamps in order to pay other basic necessities.

The Modern Poverty Threshold hopefully will not become dormant or obsolete.  The Act also includes the ability to objectively review and reassess the effects of the Modern Poverty Threshold no less than every five years.


Rep. McDermott’s Bill is already gaining support as 5 others have joined in to co-sponsor.  They are:  Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO); Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT); Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D=NY); Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Rep. Fortney Pete Stark (D-CA).

Next Steps

The Bill has been referred to two Congressional Committees:  the Ways and Means Committee and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  These committees will hold hearings to evaluate and vote whether to recommend for passage.  Please join me in writing and faxing letters to your Senators and Congressmen to seek their support of this long-overdue legislation. A sample letter follows:

Dear Congressman ____________________ OR Senator_______________________:

I am writing to seek your support of HR 2909, The Measuring American Poverty Act of 2009 introduced by your colleague Rep. Jim McDermott. The Act calls for a more accurate approach to measuring poverty. Following the National Academy of Sciences recommendations the measurement will take into account a variety of metrics to determine poverty and it will allow for the fair and fiscally reasonable distribution of funding to those based upon basic needs and not just the 1960’s cost of food as annually adjusted. This Bill will allow for the plan to take affect within a year of passage.  We need to ensure that all members of our community, city, state and nation are obtaining their basic needs including food, shelter and medical care.  We cannot allow 36 million Americans to continue to live on verge of hunger.



Alternatively, you can call your Congressmen and Senators at either their local offices or their Washington, DC offices.  A sample text follows:

Hello, my name is ________________ and I live in the State of _________  and in the ___District.  I would like to voice my support of HR 2909 The Measuring American Poverty Act of 2009.  I believe this Bill will ensure that all members of our community, city, state and nation are obtaining their basics needs including food, shelter and medical care through adjusting the way we measure poverty.  We cannot allow 36 million Americans to continue to live on verge of hunger.

Irene Schild Caminer is an attorney in Chicago and a MAZON supporter.


Filed under Guest Blog, Hunger Advocacy

How can I help the multitudes of people in need?

Los Angeles is full of wealth & opportunity, yet I see people in need everyday. A shoeless man walks the Sunset Strip; a teenage runaway sits with his dog on Santa Monica’s Promenade; a veteran asks for money and food on the median in front of the gates of Bel Air; and countless faces push shopping carts on the outskirts of Downtown’s Skid Row.

These are the faces I don’t forget as I navigate our city’s congested streets. Their untold story lingers in my mind for miles and miles. I wonder where their family is and how they’ve ended up in their current situation. My mind always circles back to the same question:

How can I, one person, help the multitudes of people in need?

Last night I found part of the answer in a grocery store parking lot.  A mother and daughter (not dissimilar to any other pair walking in and out of the store) asked for help and I offered to buy them food. They didn’t ask for much, just bread and milk. I’m lucky to have extra money in my grocery budget so that I was able to help them in this small way.

I went home feeling as if I could have done more, and I will do more by donating to a cause that helps the people in my community. This is where MAZON and local organizations come into play- they have the expertise, resources and scope to help people beyond a few meals.

Reena Rexrode, Donor Services Coordinator at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

This blog post is part of Zemanta’s “Blogging For a Cause” campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.

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The Shop on Main Floor

The woman who runs the small market downstairs lost her lease. They gave her 25 days notice; last Friday was the 25th. Ironically, it was May Day, a day in which many gathered to celebrate immigrant workers & downtrodden laborers such as her.

I don’t know for a fact that this woman is an immigrant (although she spoke with a heavy accent & prepared many Eastern European dishes of the day). I don’t know where she lives, where she’ll go, or what she’ll do. I don’t even know her name. I know so little about her, having visited the market only a handful of times in the past two years. And yet I still feel very sad.

Part of it is outrage. “They only gave her 25 days notice? They’re keeping the refrigeration units she paid for? Is that legal?” But I know even less about tenant’s rights & her lease than I know about her.

But mostly, it’s a guilty conscience. I found out about the closure the day before, on our VP’s Twitter, of all places. At that point, what could I do? A purchase might liquidate her inventory & help her out in the short term, but then what? I couldn’t save her business; this isn’t some ’80s movie with a benefit concert to save the teen center.

It reminded me of my old neighborhood in North Hollywood, home to families so poor they would pick through garbage & recycling just to make ends meet. Everything looked in place; nobody cried “I need help.” But every Monday night, I awoke to the neighbors clanging in the shadows, making their rounds through the late hours of the night. But I was afraid to look, just as I was afraid to go downstairs on Friday. I didn’t want to look someone in the eye, having “known” them for months, without knowing of their problems or knowing how to save the day.

But then I remember all the days I do save, and all the people I do help. Not personally (although I am looking forward to our volunteer day at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank), but as part of the combined efforts of our grantees, our donors, our advocates & our legislators. It gives me confidence that, if we continue to work together, we truly can stop hunger. United, we can overcome our individual fears and help everyone – our neighbors, our strangers, and the women who run the markets downstairs.

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