In response to the grave economic crisis, the Orthodox Union and three partner organizations spanning a range of Orthodox ideology have established a nationwide Emergency Parnossah Initiative to take place on Shabbat, February 7, on which the Torah portion of Beshalach is read, to encourage all synagogues to form a fund to assist those in their communities who have lost their jobs. The synagogue’s rabbi will be responsible for distributing the funds to those in need.
Parnossah is the Hebrew word for livelihood or income. Beshalach was chosen because it is the portion in which God provides manna to the Children of Israel in the wilderness – “a most appropriate Torah reading,” declared OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb.
The OU, Agudath Israel of America, the National Council of Young Israel, and the Rabbinical Council of America are joining hands in “an unprecedented unity to rise to the call of synagogue leadership for an historic ‘Nationwide Emergency Parnossah Appeal,’ according to the project’s organizers. (The campaign in New York will also include COJO – the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush and Boro Park.)
Congregants will be called on to respond to the appeal with one payment or with 12 post-dated checks to be given to the rabbi or his designate, to be distributed monthly to those in need.
According to the plan, in addition to providing financial assistance, synagogue leadership and congregants are also being called on to spread the word about job openings they know about, with the jobs to be posted on the Orthodox Union Job Board (www.ou.org/jobs) or Professional Career Services website of Agudath Israel (firstname.lastname@example.org); to hire someone from the community to help both one’s business and a fellow Jew; to buy from stores in one’s community; and to provide professional services free of charge – such as medical and legal services or assistance in creating a resume – to those who have lost their jobs.
In a joint statement the organizations said: “At all times, Tzedakah (charity) is one of the guiding principles of the Jewish people. As the economic crisis deepens, and as families lose their income, we must fulfill this essential mitzvah and do everything possible to alleviate the pain experienced by our families.”
“We therefore call on the Jewish people all across the country to respond favorably to this appeal with a generous contribution to the fund. Those of us who are still working or who have the resources should thank God for His blessings and help deliver those blessings to those who have been harmed in this crisis.”
“Beshalach is also Shabbat Shira – the Sabbath of the Song sung by the Children of Israel at the Red Sea. Let us sing joyfully to those in need that we will assist them in their need and do everything possible to assure that they will be able to put food on the table, pay their mortgage or rent, and make the tuition payments necessary for their children to receive a yeshiva education.”
For further information about the initiative, contact Rabbi Bini Maryles, Director of the OU Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services, at email@example.com, or 212-613-8226.