Project CHESED – OU 14-Point Plan To help Deal With Economic Dislocation

26 Jan 2009

Note to Media: Prior to Thanksgiving, the Orthodox Union Job Board and the Department of Community Services, in response to the economic meltdown, jointly announced a new initiative, Project Chesed (Chesed means loving-kindness in Hebrew) to empower local synagogue communities across North America to take self-help steps to alleviate the pain and dislocation caused by the crisis. The plan included both a 14-point plan to be applicable in each community, as well as a suggested series of workshops to be offered by experts in the communities on survival skills in very hard times. Throughout, the OU, through its two departments, would be available to provide guidance on how to proceed.

As a service to the communities, and to the newspapers covering them, the plan and the workshop suggestions are printed below as a source for your stories.
For further information for your reporting, contact Stephen Steiner, Director of Public Relations, Orthodox Union, at, or 212-613-8318. The contact numbers at the end of the text are for community and synagogue representatives to call.
Orthodox Union Project C.H.E.S.E.D


This plan outlines immediate action that the Orthodox Union recommends to be implemented on an urgent basis for communities. The OU Job Board, along with the Department of Community Services, will help set up this program as well as offer free online services to help communities in their efforts to alleviate the hardships endured by families going through this economic upheaval.


• Organize rabbinical and lay activists to form a local committee devoted exclusively to the economic problem. A determination of the central needs of the community would be formulated and this committee would be the central organization within the community responsible to direct the efforts most needed.

• Provide communal workshops and seminars covering various topics relating to economic relief. We will help your community representatives set these programs up. In addition, sensitive workshops that deal with mortgage and foreclosure credit crises management and home budgeting, will be available for broadcast from the OU Offices via video link-up. The OU Job Board will archive these workshops (as it already does) for future use by anyone at anytime.

• Secure as many available jobs as possible from local employers/ community members. Communal Synagogues should ask their boards and membership to be proactive in providing a listing of available jobs that would be published either on announcement sheets and/or the community web site. The OU Job Board will list these communal jobs, and search for additional jobs within the area and close proximity and direct people to the OU Job Board site for additional jobs.

• Build a simple web site listing these jobs as well as all other community-sponsored services. The OU Job Board will recommend sites such as Yahoo or Google that are very simple basic sites where the designated person in charge can set up a web site in under 10 minutes and post available services. Announcements within the community, via mailings or public notices, would inform people of the web site and direct them there. The OU Job Board also has numerous listings for placement on your local web site.

• Reach out to community members who are willing to give of their professional time and provide social work, counseling, moral support and consultations for families and children. Social workers, psychologists and other qualified individuals should be enlisted as mentors and advisors, advocates and helpers for needed families.

• Contact community members in the legal profession who are willing to give of their time and provide free advice and services, as well as doctors, dentists and other health care professionals who can set up after-hour appointments in a dignified and confidential manner. Provide a listing of professional legal experts to offer pro-bono services. In addition, develop a pro-bono medical registry of providers who are willing to work with individuals who have lost their insurance. Develop a relationship with local Hatzollah (ambulance rescue service) (if available) which may also be able to offer preventive services as well.

• Provide basic computer instruction through mentoring to help people learn work-related computer skills. Urge local institutions to set up classes for these needs or local community members to provide these tutoring services free. Reach out to teachers within the communities to provide free tutoring to children to lessen the financial burden on parents who must utilize this service. The OU Job Board is now offering some e-learning classes on the web site ( which will teach basic understanding of computers.

• Provide listings that detail free government & social service options available. This listing should be posted on the community web site or free form announcement sheets. Links to a variety of services will be provided and are currently posted on the OU Job Board (we will expand this in a couple of weeks). Hookup with local Federations such as Jewish Vocational Services, Family services, etc. should be established.

• Establish a chesed fund to help people with their utility and food bills. This can be developed through local charity box collections, social events, auctions, teas, etc. This form of assistance should be coordinated by a committee (not an individual) discreetly and anonymously. Innovative programs such as a “Yeshiva Dollar” program with local merchants should be established- when a purchase is made and a percentage goes to help pay tuition.

• Work one-on-one to implement household budgeting and expenses. Volunteer financial analysts should be cultivated within the community to discreetly review family budgeting. Also implement the OU Job Board RETURN program, which utilizes retired people as mentors. The OU Job Board has links posted that give tips to better credit and usage of capital. Please refer to for more information

• Urge communities, Rabbis and board members to prioritize local needs first. Emphasize modification in spending money on simcha celebrations. A matching simcha fund should be set up, requesting a donation in honor of the simcha and apply that donation to the community.

• Daily “pushka” collections should go into a communal fund that provides funding for local work. This money should go directly into a community fund to either pay for community services or go directly to individuals in need of help.

• Look to local merchants to fund school supplies for children in the form of books as well as other items. Advertise these merchants in local announcements and Shabbat announcements as recommended merchants. Hopefully that will drive business into their establishments and in turn will increase their giving. Decals, posters or certificates should be given to the stores indicating their recommended status and should be updated every few months.

• A subcommittee of rabbinical and lay leaders should be set up to negotiate with local yeshivas, shuls and other “must have” institutions, to lower or delay tuition payments, shul memberships etc. Allow people who need this help to volunteer their services, if possible, as a way of giving back. Seek out grants that may be given by many local federations for tuition help.

Workshops on Surviving the Economic Crisis

Suggested Topics:

• Financial Concerns:
Budgeting; Money Management ; Financial Planning ; Re-defining Family Priorities — How to Do More With Less; The Effect of Finances and Money Matters on Relationships; Raising Financially Responsible Children
• Living with Uncertainty and Coping During these Tough Economic Times:
How to Discuss the Changing Economic Status with your Spouse & Children ; Coping with Loss During the Economic Crisis? Lost your Job? Facing Bankruptcy or Foreclosure?
Credit Meltdown & Practical Solutions- Settling Debt & Bankruptcy; How to Navigate through Today’s Economic Challenges? Dealing with Communal Responsibilities During Times of Crisis; A Halachic (Jewish Law) Perspective on Where to Give Tzedakah in these Difficult Times; The Mortgage Crisis and Credit Crunch – A Halachic Perspective; How to Make Ends Meet with Shrinking Retirement Funds? Estate Planning; Reverse Mortgages
• Getting Back into the Workplace: Retraining and Upgrading:

E-Learning/re-training options; From Mainframe to Mainstream; The American Dream’s Rude Awakening — Mortgage Debacle and Foreclosures; Career Planning/Counseling, Guidance, and Development; Understanding the Hiring Process — Ace Your Next Interview; How to Write an Effective Resume and/or Resume Review (re-write); Keys to Effective Networking; Networking in the Digital Age-Meeting People YOU Should Know;
Sales training skills that will help you to job network; How to Market Your Business During Tough Economic Challenges; Marketing During a Recession – Tips and Strategy;

Top strategies to market your business through the Internet; Starting a New Business in this Economy

For further information on Project CHESED and programs to empower your community, please contact:

Frank Buchweitz, National Director of Community Services and Special Projects, 212.613.8188,; Michael Rosner, Director, OU Job Board, 212.613.8129,