Jewish Assistance Network
By Vivian Henoch, Editor myJewishDetroit
October 29, 2013
It can happen to anyone, at any time: A sudden illness, loss of a job, a family crisis. Calling for a shoulder to lean on or somewhere to turn can be difficult. But fortunately, in our community there are answers and help is available. Call it a resource. A safety net. A helpdesk. A lifeline whenever it’s needed.
A collaboration of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s agency partners and other Jewish service organizations in the community, the Jewish Assistance Network (JAN for short) provides ease of access to the community’s full range of social, health, educational and financial services. Since its founding in 2008, JAN has helped thousands of individuals and families successfully conquer life’s challenges.
Call “JAN” at (248) 592-2650 for help
One call opens the doors to 14 service providers in the community offering scores of services that are free or provided on a sliding payment scale. They include:
• Career counseling
• Emergency financial assistance
• Educational scholarships
• Family crisis intervention
• Food and clothing
• Interest-free loans
• Job training and employment services
• Senior housing, eldercare and hospice services
A little history
The Jewish Assistance Network is a unique blend of agency know-how and traditional Jewish values, drawing from our community history and collective strengths to share resources and provide help wherever there is need.
The concept is as old as the Detroit Jewish community itself. Detroit’s Jewish charities arose and proliferated around the turn of the 20th Century in response to the rapid influx of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. It was a time of great need for communal organizations and the moment in which we find some of the oldest branches of the Federation family tree growing.
Fast-forward to 2008
“Poverty” isn’t a word generally associated with the Jewish community. But in the summer of 2008, it was clear that Jewish Detroit had a growing and alarming challenge – a need for “The Poverty Initiative.” Resources became harder to gain. People who once had been donors to Federation and supporters of the community’s agencies were now coming through the doors, seeking help themselves—in crisis mode.
“Federation’s Poverty Initiative was a grassroots concept,” says Paul Blatt, Vice President of Business and Career Service at JVS. “Community leaders Michael Eizelman and John Jacobs led the committee to launch the initiative, but from the start all agency executives were at those first meetings to say that we are all in this together.”
The initiative became a fully staffed program. And the program today continues to evolve as a permanent network — a response to the “new normal” and a level of community need that is not going away in the foreseeable future.
“Because of the lack of growth in the community and the continued scarcity of jobs, we know people are making do with less,” says Tracey Proghovhick, Director of Information and Referral at Jewish Senior Life (JSL). There are those in their 60s who have been unemployed now for three or four years. Financially, they are not going to fully recover what they’ve lost. We see this in the rising numbers of those coming to us for subsidized housing.”
“Jewish Detroit is often described as a close-knit, caring family. As a community we have always had a solid, if not formal, network in place to help our youngest, oldest and most vulnerable members,” observes Cheryl Berlin, Loan Program Manager at Hebrew Free Loan (HFL). “But the economic crisis humbled us all. The sudden transition that we all experienced hit home, and made us more consciously aware that more people than ever needed our services.”
How JAN works
There are “no wrong doors” into the Jewish Assistance Network. All calls to JAN at 248-592-2650 come into the Resource Center at Jewish Family Service (JFS) in West Bloomfield. The Center is staffed by trained resource specialists and agency professionals, all experts at navigating the system and connecting callers to the services they need.
JAN is also a resource for the agency staff. According to Erica Saum, Director of Resource Center and Eldercare Solutions at JFS, “One of the most powerful components of the Jewish Assistance Network is knowing one another on the staff — feeling comfortable with every agency referral and client hand-off. Our job is to understand the ins-and-outs of the agencies, sharing with each other what we do and how we do it.” Collaboration in the Network also involves inter-agency communications, on-going staff training, activities and events, even co-locating certain staff for seamless service from one agency to another.
The Jewish Assistance Network has not created a greater need for separate funding. “If anything, putting our heads together has helped maximize resources and optimize the way representatives from each agency work together” says Todd Krieger, Federation’s Associate Director of Planning, “We’re always looking at best practices, joint opportunities and ways to pitch in together.”
“It was the downturn in the economy that forced everyone to the table five years ago,” reminds Paul, “But we are prepared for any situation. No matter what comes up, we have done our due diligence to set this Network in place to respond to the community’s needs today, tomorrow and well into the future.”
Number of agencies and service organizations currently in the Network: 14
Calls to the Resource Center: About 800-900 a month
Number of scholarships granted last year: more than 900
Total annual funding in the Jewish Assistance Network pool: more than $8M
David B. Hermelin ORT Resource Center
Hebrew Free Loan of Metropolitan Detroit (HFL)
Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit (JCC)
Jewish Dental Clinic
Jewish Family Service (JFS)
Jewish Hospice & Chaplaincy Network (JHCN)
Jewish Senior Life of Metropolitan Detroit (JSL)
National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW)