April 8, 2024
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Project Ezrah Analysis Reveals Increased Need in Bergen County

(Courtesy of Project Ezrah) For over 20 years, Project Ezrah has been the main organization to help Jewish families in need in Bergen County. It recently conducted an analysis of 2023 and two implications emerged from its analysis: More local families are in significant financial need than ever, and the organization needs to raise significant funds immediately to continue fully servicing the community’s rapidly rising concerns.

The numbers speak for themselves. Three times more local families reached out for assistance to the organization in 2023 than in 2022, and more than 2.5 times more families applied for financial assistance. By the end of 2023, Project Ezrah had 350 active cases, each representing a Bergen County family with acute financial problems and actively working with the organization.

This increase did not result from any decrease in Project Ezrah’s scrutiny. Given the commitment to properly steward donor funds, Project Ezrah conducts a comprehensive evaluation of each application, directs applicants to external resources whenever possible, counsels clients on budgeting, networking and job applications, and only resorts to direct financial assistance where the need is extreme and there is no other solution.

The organization has strained itself to meet the current rising need. It provided a half-million dollar increase in aid to families compared to 2021 and provided a whopping 450 services through its job development department during the year, injecting $3.5. million in salaries into the community.

Throughout the year, it extended vital support through diverse programs such as Yom Tov clothing orders, Pesach grants, school break activity gift cards, and day camp scholarships.

The organization is also aiming to expand community-wide initiatives to help guide young people to financial security, including hosting its inaugural career summit, attracting over 100 participants, and partnering with esteemed organizations like YUConnects to expand its well-known The Aisle premarital program to include a section on mental health and communication. Project Ezrah is continuously adapting to address the changing and emerging needs within Bergen County.

With the sharp increase in need, Project Ezrah needs an equally sharp increase in donations. These “needs” are real-life Jewish families, with parents and children who go to local shuls and are in school with their children. Project Ezrah is reaching out directly to the community to help maintain their current level of support and be prepared for the continuously growing need that continues to come through their doors.

As Project Exrah navigates the challenges ahead, the words of Rabbi Elliot Schrier from their 2023 annual dinner resonate deeply: “When you live in a Jewish community, you support the mikvah, because every Jewish community needs a mikvah. When you live in a Jewish community, you support the eruv because every Jewish community needs an eruv. And when you live in Bergen County, you support Project Ezrah. Because every Jewish community needs a Project Ezrah.”

He went on to discuss the importance of maintaining community support for Project Ezrah even during such trying times for the global Jewish community. Many people feel conflicted about where their communal resources should go during this crisis in Eretz Yisrael. “It’s not an easy question to answer,” he said.

Rabbi Schrier added: “Part of the answer is also recognizing that we can’t be a Jewish community that supports Israel if we are not a true Jewish community in the first place. I have not seen anyone suggest that we should stop supporting the eruv because of the war in Eretz Yisrael. I have not seen anyone suggest that we should stop supporting the mikvah because of the war in Eretz Yisrael. And if we are unwilling to let our eruv fall into disrepair, if we are unwilling to let our mikvaos run dry, then we must be willing to support Project Ezrah as well. Without it, we’ve lost our most basic sense of who we are.”

As the community approaches crucial campaigns like Manatnot Le’yonim and Maot Chittim that help hundreds of people in the community, Project Ezrah implores everyone to join them in this vital endeavor. The community’s support directly impacts the lives of neighbors, providing essential aid where it’s needed most. Though the need may not always be visible, it is undeniably present, and together we can make a tangible difference.

Visit ezrah.org/donate to learn more or contribute to their mission. Those interested in speaking with Project Ezrah about their work, reach out directly to their executive director Rachel Krich at [email protected]. Together, let’s ensure that no member of our community faces adversity alone.

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