Paamonim, a non-profit partner with the Israeli government for responsible financial planning, saves thousands of Israelis every year from having to receive charity funds from the government or their individual communities. How? Through comprehensive financial education and one-on-one ongoing guidance from over 2,800 trained volunteer counselors. According to Teaneck’s own Susan Alpert, Paamonim helps IDF soldiers, individuals and families stay out of debt on a grand scale.
As Paamonim’s new director for overseas development, Alpert shared that helping couples and individuals learn how to manage their finances before getting into trouble has been her longtime passion. Having worked at Bergen County’s Project Ezrah since its inception, she saw firsthand how important foundational financial education was toward preventing future financial challenges.
Therefore, one of the most exciting aspects of her new job is to explain that Paamonim believes in starting financial education really young… in school! “The ‘Paamonim Chupat Chisachon’ is used by thousands of school-aged children in Israel as an aid to learning the ABCs of financial literacy. Setting a budget, creating guidelines for spending, learning the differences between fixed and variable costs like taxes, rent or transportation along with complexities like luxury spending or ‘rainy days’ are all important ideas and lessons that can be taken in at a young age. It is even easier to learn if the material is designed in a fun, kid-friendly and engaging way.”
It’s important to note that all demographics in Israel are reached by Paamonim’s core volunteer counselor program (religious, chiloni, single moms, retired couples and more), and workshops and lectures (held in over 800 locations, from Eilat to Kiryat Shmona) cover many issues, such as “having a good financial education as a real lifesaver during bereavement,” said Alpert, and special programs of concern for single parents, youths at risk, couples preparing to retire, new olim and more.
But Paamonim is not only proactive. “Counselors also help families that are already in debt to get out of debt using their own resources,” said Alpert. “Of course it is a hard road this way, but those families do not suffer the embarrassment of taking community funds,” she added, explaining that once armed with the right financial tools, they are empowered to work harder and are rewarded with a deep feeling of accomplishment.
Each family that turns to Paamonim receives a phone call from its intake officers to identify the problem. Whether in severe economic distress, drowning in a cycle of debts and loans or requiring an answer to specific questions about budgets, banks, mortgages or pensions, families are recommended to one of its niche programs, which, in addition to one-on-one counseling and group seminars, include employment/career counseling and legal assistance.
The effects on the greater community are incredible. “Entire families learn how to rely on their own resources, to live their financial life the responsible way and live with pride, without the indignity of receiving charity,” Alpert told The Jewish Link.
Because of the last decade’s influx of Anglo olim and its effect on Israel’s demographic makeup, the next steps for Paamonim involves American Jews, who increasingly are seeking to learn the financial facts and realities of aliyah. To that end, the organization is now extending its fundraising efforts to the U.S., and the organization is setting up workshops, lectures and, for those with a more concrete look toward aliyah, will offer a volunteer counselor session creating a pro-forma budget that will allow families to appropriately plan for their financial life in Israel.
Modernity Is Key
Lectures and workshops are held throughout Israel, inclusive of all branches of Israel’s society, focusing on preemptive measures as well as specific budgeting and life-style issues. “With the ease of internet spending and credit card availability, spending money has never been ‘easier.’ Therefore, Paamonim is constantly keeping up with current trends, expanding, improving and adding new innovations to the tools used for their 31,000+ households’ financial education and budget management,” Alpert said.
Alpert added that many of Israel’s government ministries recognize the excellence and necessity of Paamonim’s programs. They partner with Paamonim and/or incorporate its “Responsible Way” programs into their own.
A Hebrew/English version of the Paamonim Chupat Chisachon will soon be available for a modest donation to Paamonim. The bonus: Build up your Hebrew vocabulary! Please email [email protected] to reserve a copy.
By Elizabeth Kratz