(Courtesy of Project Ezrah) On Motzei Shabbat, December 2, Project Ezrah hosted their 22nd annual dinner. Over 550 community members came out to support one of Bergen County’s most important tzedaka organizations. Founded by Rabbi Yossi Stern in 2001, Project Ezrah has spent the last 22 years acting as the community’s safety net. They provide financial assistance, job development and a large array of supportive services to help families in Bergen County make ends meet.
This year Project Ezrah honored Rabbi Elliot and Rena Schrier, Ami and Emma Kirschner, and Yahoo and Erika Rabin. Each one of these couples has contributed immensely in their own unique way to the well-being of the entire Bergen County community. The theme of this year’s dinner was “100% Impact,” emphasizing that every small gesture of chesed adds up to ensure that anyone who needs help can receive it. Everyone can make such an impact when efforts and work are pooled together.
“All of our honorees have a profound and close connection to Project Ezrah and give 100%. I am lucky to work with them throughout the year and excited to share their stories with the broader community,” said Rachel Krich, executive director of Project Ezrah.
Erika and Yahoo Rabin are deeply connected to the work of Project Ezrah. During the program, Erika Rabin spoke about how when she was a child, she watched her parents struggle and wished there had been access to an organization like Project Ezrah to help them. The Rabins have incorporated Project Ezrah into their life in a special way: they make a donation every single week right after Havdala. Everyone can all learn from them that weaving the practice of tzedakah into one’s routine can change a person’s life and the lives of so many others.
“I like to start my week with a mitzvah, and what is easier than tapping a button to donate?” Yahoo Rabin said. Recurring donations are a profound way to make a significant difference in the lives of all of the local families Project Ezrah helps each year. Even if a person can only give a few dollars, every dollar given to Project Ezrah has a 100% impact on the community. No amount is too small to make a difference.”
Emma and Ami Kirschner have stepped up to the plate in many ways. They are a part of the inaugural Young Leadership Giving Circle, a group of young leaders who have committed to an annual pledge of at least $1,000 for three years. In addition, Emma Kirschner saw an intense need to help people access mental health care. She helped Project Ezrah launch Ezrah L’Nefesh, a program that will help families receive financial support for mental health care needs, and continues to work hard on this initiative.
Rena and Rabbi Elliot Schrier were honored with the Rabbinic Leadership award this year. The Schriers have made a tremendous difference in the community and have worked closely with Project Ezrah. During his remarks, Rabbi Schrier implored everyone at the event to see the critical importance of Project Ezrah.
“I can tell you that I live in a community where it is intuitively and widely understood that part of being a member of Am Yisrael, part of being a member of a Kehillah Kedoshah, is caring for others in moments of need. 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 communal resources should go during this crisis in Eretz Yisrael. “It’s not an easy question to answer,” he said. Rabbi Schrier went on to say:
“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 mikvos 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.”
Community members left the evening feeling inspired to become more involved and supportive of one of the community’s more critical organizations.
For more information on the work of Project Ezrah or to donate or get involved, visit ezrah.org or email [email protected].