May 27, 2009
Recognizing that the uncertain economic climate has buffeted many of Westchester’s Jewish residents, some local organizations have launched a variety of initiatives — practical, psychological and even spiritual — to address some of these needs.
Through a UJA-Federation of New York grant, the Westchester Jewish Community Services organization recently launched the “Connect to Care Program,” offering a variety of services for those hurt by the economic downturn.
“We’re using all the resources of our network agencies to provide job placement and counseling, financial planning, and legal assistance,” said Sherry Birnbaum, director of Jewish Programming and Pathways to Care at WJCS.
Jill Schreibman, a WJCS social worker who leads a group at Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester in Chappaqua, said, “The issues that have come up are how do you stay motivated, how do you adjust to a new financial reality, how do you talk to your children.”
On June 1, through this initiative, WJCS will open a center at 10 New King St. in White Plains, ( 470-5721) to provide computer workstations, counseling, resume-writing assistance, support groups, and career exploration, among other services, for the unemployed and under-employed, said Anita Greenwald, program director at the Center.
Earlier this month, some 50 mostly middle-aged men and women gathered at Congregational Emanu-El of Rye to gain networking expertise from career consultant and networking coach Rod Colon, founder and president of the “Empowering Today’s Professionals ‘ETP’ Network.” This program was co-sponsored by the Westchester Jewish Conference and the UJA-Federation of New York’s Connect to Care Program at WJCS.
“You’re running a business and the business is ‘Me, Inc.,’” said Colon. “If you are not excited about your own business, no one else will be. The key is your friends, your contacts and your relationships. Networking isn’t selling. It’s developing relationships.”
The message resonated with many of those in attendance.
“I’m currently looking for a job,” said Ron Goldberg of Ossining, an attorney. “I’m at a crossroads. I thought he [Colon] had useful things to say. The concept to reach out to people, really reaching out and making good contacts is essential.”
Through a UJA-Federation of New York grant, WJCS Partners in Caring has also sponsored two free Jewish meditation programs this spring.
“People are looking for any way to manage their fears and anxieties, and maintain a sense of their identity, hopefulness and values when they’re not working,” said WJCS’s Ruth Rosenblum, a social worker, psychotherapist and meditation teacher. “That’s so shaken our identities and sense of purpose. There’s such a sense of shame. ‘If I lose my job, did I do something wrong? If I lost money, why didn’t I act?’ Mindfulness meditation and the Jewish meditative tradition offer a sense of community, a greater sense of connection to the divine mystery.”
During a session last month, a small group of women sat in contemplative silence, occasionally chanting, focusing on their breath, and listening attentively to Rosenblum’s soothing words.
“There’s so much anxiety out there,” she said. “There’s so much loss, whether it’s your 401K or the vacation you can’t afford anymore or worries about jobs. It’s our nature. We worry. Sometimes when we’re feeling depleted, remember the gifts and what life is bringing us. Right now, in this moment. We’re fine. It’s okay. When we bring in gratitude, a sense of abundance, our body, mind and psyche begins to relax.”
For more information about these programs, some of which will be running through June, please contact wjcs.com, (914) 761-0600. WJCS also offers A Resource Guide for Westchester Residents in Economic Transition through the WJCS Web site at www.wjcs.com/pdf/GUIDE.pdf.