We must assist our people

Funds for Jewish emigre services are in jeopardy.

So are scholarships that enable low-income families to send their children to Jewish community day-care programs.

And money is needed for services that assist the elderly — such as housing and medical care.

As the local Jewish federations approach their June 30 campaign deadline, California is just beginning to recover from a long recession that has already taken a financial toll on such services. But the needs have become more acute, and concerns about maintaining critical services are mounting.

It's not just the government that is cutting back. Many agencies supported by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay have faced losses in funding from foundations and nonprofit organizations.

In the East Bay, Jewish agencies have had to make up for losses of more than $100,000, the result of United Way funding cuts affecting grants that supported services to the elderly, emigres, youths and those in need of counseling.

"Without a substantial increase in our campaign, agencies are facing cuts to their allocations that will put at risk programs for our most vulnerable populations — young children, the elderly and the needy," said Ellen Kaufman, chair of the East Bay federation's planning and organizational services committee.

The S.F.-based JCF, meanwhile, needs scholarship funds to assist the growing number of low-income families with youngsters in child care at Jewish community centers.

"More and more families come to us because of an inability to pay due to unemployment, illness or divorce," said Zev Hymowitz, executive director of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

Harold Zlot, chairman of the JCF's 1996 campaign, also cited the growing needs of emigres, both in our community and in Israel. In addition, there are Jews living in endangered areas throughout the world. Many, he said, are "rediscovering their Jewishness." It is vital that we assist them on that path, recognizing that material help also can provide spiritual sustenance that will make the worldwide Jewish community stronger.

We must make a commitment to the Jewish people, to our heritage and to the future. With increasing needs, both federations must top last year's totals — $18.6 million for the JCF and $2.78 million for the East Bay federation.

Please look into your hearts and help the community with this much-needed tzedakah. We must care for our people.