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September 03, 2010

Homeless Jews

House Do we really care?

I've been contacted recently by Jews who are or who are, God forbid, about to be homeless.

Each time I refer them to a Jewish community agency, they respond by saying they've already tried getting help from that agency to no avail. These Jewish community agencies do not have housing help. They might give a small grant for food assistance or utility assistance, but that's about it.

So what do these Jewish agencies do?

Apparently they refer poor Jews to government agencies and government programs.

So, for example, in cases I know of in New York City, several Orthodox Jews will have to use the city's shelter system – which is considered to be dangerous – or sleep on the streets.

Jewish run shelters are generally non-Orthodox synagogues which use their space one or two days per month as shelters. In NYC that means they are part of the city's shelter system and all of its drawbacks.

Do we have a responsibility to help poor Jews? Does that responsibility include help with housing?

Without question, Jewish law says we do.

So why don't we?

Are there Jewish resources I don't know about?


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Are there Jewish resources don't know about?

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The Jewish Homeless

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Although your emloyment at any of your various liasions with Jewish non-profits in the US and other parts of the world has been always been brief, you should be aware that the first and formost importance of any Jewish charity is the the charitable group itself. Without self-sustainability there would cease to be such organisms raising money, so the lions share of the money brought in must first be funneled towards those making the fundraising for Jewish causes possible. The cost of maintaining these people and their families is no small pittance, as they must be supported at a level equal to or above the majority of donors to make the position worth their while. Then there are the costs of maintaining a distinguished place of business to lure the yearning hearts of charitable Jews and Gentiles to contribute to their cause, and to make the working conditions sufficiently comfortable. And of course there is a high importance on maintaining high standards of appearance for professionalism and personal dignity.

After taking these costs into account there is hardly a charity that can support housing for even a handful of Jews, let alone complete families. Where is all that money supposed to come from, God? If someone is truly at risk of losing his/her housing the most reasonable approach would be the tried and true Jewish way - have that person and his/her family incorporate as a Jewish charity, thus securing themselves food and shelter from the top of the money pile before having to dole out small sums of money, or even just the time and effort to assist others that such agencies ideally provide.

Based soley on my personal experiences and observations to date it pains we to say that "we" yidden and by that I mean all Jews (except the ones who are professional takers and shnorers) only talk the talk about helping our poor and improvrished Jewish brothers.

My once Chabad "Rabbi" always spoke of tzdakah and how "we" all should give, yet when I asked him to account for and to provide me with documentations as to exactly how our donations are being disseminated he blew me off.


The monies collected without question as of today goes pay the rent for the house that Chabad built so it could operate it as a "front" to find rich Jewish builders and businessman and tell them and justify to them how their huge donations "help the entire Jewish community."

This so called Chabad Shul gets a minyan if they are luck on Shabos, so here is a rough idea how the number crunch:

$4,500.00 per month rent (in a strip mall) + untilites + phone X 12 = each so called congregant is begin subsidized to the tune of thousands of dollars to keep the doors open.

If he operated out of his house the donations would drop to zero because he can no longer "justify" his expenses and his so called and "outreach" to the community which included needless to say the poor and homeless.

I have never seen a poor or homeless Jew at the shul,given a cot to sleep on in his house or for that matter ever discusses (to help motivate his congregation) in passing without mentioning names.

His house that he rents is H U G E
Utilities for the house is H U G E
Kosher fress
2 full time Philipino nannies
2 vehicles
visting family via airplanes
flying to 770
dental care
frum schools for all his kids
clothing for all his kids
camp for all his kids
snow plowing (does a strong Jew shovel)
lawn service (does a strong Jew garden) etc

I hope and pray that my account is the lone exception to how homeless Jews are helped by people we believe in and encourage us to give.

I think it all depends on the country and the community.
There are Jewish housing associations. There are also non Jewish associations that sometimes work alongside the Jewish ones or take into account religious needs such as the local area or whether they will do repairs on the house on a religious day.
These are not shelters as one would still pay a rent, although it is subsidised and when i say that it matters on the country, that is also a big issue. In the UK there are all sorts of benefits. Housing benefits are one of them where you can get all your rent paid for depending on your income.

Maybe there needs to be a campaign for these people. But i think everyone gave all their money and gold for the Jewish criminal fund, so i am not sure there is much left to give for the homeless.

My take is this - if you own a home and have no money, sell the house and rent an apartment. When you're renting, then you have a problem.

Homelessness is a scourge. I am sure there are many, many spare rooms in houses and apartments all around the Western Nations where Jews live. If wealthier people with spare space could offer accommodation to people short of shelter much of the problem would be solved. When one has a safe, clean, stable space on which to rest their head at night they are able to get on with their lives. Shelter is a fundamental need of all human beings. It is not just the government who can assist with this social problem. Prayers to all the homeless people of the world.

This is the case, tragically. Among the liberal Jews who fund and administer mainstream Jewish philanthropies, the mindset is that Jews are affluent. They seem to find Jewish poverty embarrassing. Here in Boston, our Jewish philanthropies are notoriously very poorly run; people go to them for help yet walk away empty-handed all the time. I'm told it's different in other cities, but I have no first-hand knowledge. Christian charities seem to be better at dealing with this. It's ironic, as the perception of us among gentiles is that Jews take care of one another.

I'm surprised to hear that this is becoming a problem among the Orthodox, however. My understanding has been that they really do tend to take care of one another.

If they are young under 21 above 18 check out Reciprocity Foundation in NYC. Best there is. Also read Times Square Rabbi-Finding Hope in Lost Kids' Lives second edition. There is not help nor outreach. The so called Ohel et al outreach is a scam and fraud. There are 1000's of frum kids over 18 homeless in NYC and more in LA.

Look no one cares period. You want to do something call that center. Otherwise get some blinders but never believe any Jewish communal utterance about homeless or runaways. All the books are cooked just like in Kiruv and the street kids never come near those people.

Adam Neira,

Very, very well said. I can only hope someone listens.

The type of grouping to which you refer was employed en masse during the great depression by most of the country - often with a token fee to "rent" a room in a home with owners. A house could have a variety of "tennents" and while the money being paid covered some expenses, it was more a form of charitable gesture to help each other out.

In Argentina the Ashkenazi Jews did the same during the finacial crisis, by allowing other Ashkenazim to stay in spare rooms, guest houses and even summer houses in other provinces. And like you said it best "When one has a safe, clean, stable space on which to rest their head at night they are able to get on with their lives." - And they did.

I hope we, all Jews, can feel the same sense of community and family responsibility and be as kind and cooperative as the Ashkenazim of Argentina.

[Yeah, I don't know what their deal is with Sepharadim down there, but we can learn from the good social behavior employed among those with whom they felt a brotherly link and communal obligation and say that the same should be employed by all Jews to all Jews the world over.]

People do care, but it tends to be done quietly by the local rabbis (at least in Baltimore). I know personally of one family that periodically gets money from their local rabbi so that they can don't fall behind on their mortgage.

The community rabbis tend to know their congregations very well and know who they can ask when someone needs extra help.

I am able ready to staart a jewish homless campagn, in america!!!! they get billions of donations.. all of it goes to their pocket, nothing for the poor jew....

My name is Joel, I had several strokes a few years ago and ended up homeless as a result. I never missed a service at the local shul bouncing around from couch to couch in any home that would let me stay for awhile. Sadly to say not a single home that was opened up to me was a Jewish home. Even today the home that I stay at is owned by a German that grew up during the war and feels sorry for what happened to us Jews. I'm receiving disability and getting back up on my feet again and don't need help anymore, however there is a need out there for Jews that are suffering at no fault of their own. They say that everything happens for a reason and is within the plan of G-d, I believe that now because being homeless changed my outlook on things. Shalom

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