"We got a thank you letter from a family [that] just had $11 cut from their food stamps and $14 cut from their SSI [social security income] each month. That $25 is the equivalent of four days' worth of food for this family," notes Friedman. "For people on a budget that tight, every dollar makes an enormous difference. That's what it means to unravel the safety net."
Cash donations to the JFCS Chanukah Drive will allow the agency to buy discount food vouchers from local supermarkets for needy families and provide shelter for the homeless. "In the Jewish tradition and the spirit of Chanukah, giving of oneself so those less fortunate can enjoy the holiday is a real mitzvah," says Breen.
For seniors, JFCS is seeking warm scarves, hats and small gift items like cheerful notecards or picture frames to brighten their homes.
"So many of the elderly in the community have outlived their friends and relatives," Breen notes. "Knowing that the Jewish community remembers them at this time of year can make a big difference in their lives."
JFCS provides a "Chanukah basket," complete with a menorah, candles, driedels, small toys and chocolate gelt as well as recipes and a bilingual booklet describing the holiday to each newcomer family that arrived during the past year.
"The first Chanukah in America is very special for emigre families. We want to make sure they have a warm welcome and the opportunity to experience what, for so many, is a new holiday," Breen says.
Financial contributions can be sent to the JFCS Chanukah Drive 1600 Scott St., San Francisco, CA 94115. Cash donations will be acknowledged with a Chanukah tribute card to friends or family, letting them know that their gift enabled others to have a happy holiday.
Donations of menorahs, toys, canned food, warm clothing and other items can be delivered to the JFCS branch office in your area: 423 Presidio Ave., San Francisco; 490 El Camino Real, Belmont; 480 California Ave., or 655 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto; 1330 Lincoln Ave. or 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael; 320 College Ave., Santa Rosa. (Gifts should be left unwrapped so JFCS caseworkers can distribute them to the most appropriate recipients.)
For information about the JFCS Chanukah drive, call (415) 567-8860.