Retelling the story of the exodus to freedom will have a special meaning this Passover for two elderly former Soviet Jews, both of whom became American citizens recently with the help of citizenship courses funded by UJA-Federation.
Life had been a struggle for Mrs. M, her husband and four children. And when her husband found himself out of work in August, the Long Island family quickly found themselves behind in the rent and the oil company demanded cash on delivery.
"We needed help and we didn't know where to go," Mrs. M recalled. "We had no money in our pockets and we were waiting for unemployment checks to arrive."
In the last six months, Temple Emanuel of Long Beach, L.I., opened its doors for a social adult day-care program for seniors with dementia. Seven seniors attend twice a week and the synagogue's spiritual leader, Rabbi Bennett Herman, described it as "probably the best example of group work activity I've ever seen."
While Marjorie Rosenthal was caring for her elderly mother, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease during the last seven years of her life, she realized how difficult it would be had she not been able to afford a home-care attendant.
"People are living longer and longer and our bodies break down at some point," she said. "There aren't a lot of places you would want to put a relative with Alzheimer's, and itís a very difficult job caring for the person by yourself at home."
When it was created more than three years ago, the Trust for Jewish Philanthropy was seen as an innovative endeavor designed to channel significant dollars and creative ideas from some of the largest Jewish foundations into the Jewish federation network. But after achieving only limited success, its end was announced this week, a victim of economic hard times.
The announcement, made in the form of a press release Tuesday evening by its parent organization, the United Jewish Communities, came as a surprise to many.
With her 10-year-old son at her side, a disabled widow from Long Beach told a hushed group of 500 UJA-Federation lay and professional leaders that the local Jewish community center has "been there for us in the very darkest of times."
"I have an immune disease called fibromyalga," explained Harriet Cohen, 46, at the annual Long Island General Assembly in Roslyn, which provides UJA-Federation-funded organizations an opportunity to display their activities.
Saying the last 18 months have been one of the "saddest chapters in our country's history," the executive vice president of UJA-Federation detailed his organization's struggle to deal with the impact of welfare reform.
"I can report to you the panic that ensued" as legal immigrants here more than five years realized they would lose Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid and food stamps, Stephen Solender told a recent UJA-Federation-sponsored legislative breakfast.
Citing a "glass ceiling" in Jewish communal life that has prevented women from advancing to leadership positions in national Jewish organizations and large city federations, the newly created Trust for Jewish Philanthropy has announced that its first initiative will be to tackle the gender gap.
To help the project get off the ground, the philanthropist Barbara Dobkin, who founded and chairs Ma'yan, the Jewish Women's Project of the JCC of the Upper West Side, said she and her husband, Eric, are donating $1 million in seed money.
In a synagogue library in northern Westchester, a dozen senior citizens sit around a long table discussing current events. In a temple conference room on the Upper West Side, a young family talks about the tensions raised by a child’s serious illness. In the meeting room of a Long Island JCC, a group of recent widows share photographs and memories of their late husbands.