JVS program helps disabled adults enter working world

Today she is employed full time as a computer-aided designer with an engineering consulting firm and shares an apartment with her daughter in the East Bay.

Along the way Michaelson, a 25-year-old dyslexic woman, received special job training for disabled adults through Jewish Vocational Services. That training helped her enter the working world.

Such training was recently jeopardized because of cuts in state funding for disabled adults. However, a $35,000 grant from the Jewish Community Endowment Newhouse Fund of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation ensures that it will continue.

With the grant, JVS has created a new employment program called Joblink, geared toward disabled adults.

The program provides such services as outreach, employer advocacy and job placement.

"Under the program, instead of falling though the cracks, disabled individuals in the Jewish community can become self-sufficient through employment," said George Saxe, chair of the Newhouse Fund's advisory committee.

The program's goal, said Saxe, is to ensure that JVS can continue serving people like Arthur Friedman, who began living on welfare when the company where he was working closed four months ago.

At the time, Friedman, a 50-year-old HIV-positive former substance abuser, feared he had few job prospects. Unsure how to go about job-hunting, he contacted the State Department of Rehabilitation, which sent him to JVS.

With JVS assistance, he landed a temporary clerical position at the U.S. Department of Education. JVS executive director Abby Snay said disabled adults like Friedman face unique challenges in today's competitive job market.

"Limitations resulting from visible or hidden disabilities, in addition to low self-esteem and gaps in work history, prove considerable barriers to employment," she said.

Last year, JVS served more than 1,000 disabled individuals, from substance abusers and the learning disabled to clients who had physical and mental disabilities, said Snay.

The grant from the Newhouse Fund to the JVS was one of 11 totaling $899,135 recently allocated to a variety of organizations and projects. Other Newhouse grants awarded were:

*$110,500 to the Bureau of Jewish Education for scholarships to Camp Arazim, Camp Moshava, Camp Ramah, Camp Swig, Camp Tawonga and Camp Young Judaea West.

*$12,500 to Congregation Kol Shofar in second-year seed funding for their Kesher program, a family education program targeting unaffiliated families with children enrolled in preschool.

*$55,000 to the JFCS AIDS Project, which, sponsored by the Jewish Emergency Assistance Network, provides volunteer outreach, direct assistance to patients and families and preventive education to children and adolescents.

*$225,000 to the JFCS in assistance to individuals and families in need of short-term and emergency financial aid.

*$95,000 to the Jewish Home for the Aged for its adult day-care center, a structured program of health care and social services.

*$80,000 to Mt. Zion Health Systems, Inc. for the provision of key medical services to Jewish Russian emigres at the outpatient department of UCSF/Mt. Zion Medical Center.

*$8,135 to San Mateo's Peninsula Temple Beth El for Gateways, an outreach program for unaffiliated interfaith families.

*$100,000 to Stanford University for scholarships, with a minimum of $30,000 for Jewish Studies and up to $10,000 for graduate summer programs.

*$100,000 to the University of California for scholarships with a minimum of $30,000 for Jewish Studies.

*$78,000 to the Jewish Community Centers of San Francisco and the Peninsula for their programs for seniors. The funding includes $24,000 for the kosher nutrition project at the JCC of S.F. and $54,000 for the outreach and transportation project covering both San Francisco and San Mateo counties.