This is what Maimonides wrote about the highest principle of his eight levels of tzedakah – helping a person help himself.
A program of the Center for Social Responsibility of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has recently put the teachings of the 11th-century Jewish philosopher and physician into action.
"Helping Hands," a two-year self-sufficiency pilot program, is the result of one of the first concepts to come out of Federation's Strategic Philanthropy Plan.
The program, which receives $250,000 a year from the center and is in its second year, helps the unemployed and underemployed find work through the Jewish Family and Children's Service and the Jewish Employment and Vocational Service.
"All along, Federation has helped provide for rent, food and medical bills," said center director David Rosenberg. "Now it is time to focus on helping people – particularly those who have issues beyond career training – help themselves.
"Helping Hands" reaches out to unemployed persons under 65 and living in the Delaware Valley. Family income can be no more than three times the Federal poverty guidelines. To date, 18 of the 44 clients in the program have found jobs.
"The entry point for all potential participants is JFCS' intake department," said Pat Kinkead JFCS director of counseling. "Social workers then do a full assessment with the client to see if the program is appropriate for the individual."
For instance, JFCS requires that clients apply for all public entitlements for which they are eligible, including Social Security, insurance for their children, food stamps and/or medical assistance.
JFCS also offers case management that includes individual counseling and help with such barriers to employment as debt, poor life choices, low self-esteem or long stretches of unemployment. There is also a job-readiness support group.
Federation Early Learning Services and Jewish Community Centers are also service providers for the program, offering childcare that is available through scholarships from the program. HIAS and Council Migration Services assist immigrants with citizenship issues.
At JEVS, occupational testing is the first step, and is followed by access to a rehab counselor who help clients find a career path. Computer classes and English as a Second Language classes are available, as well as help with résumés, mock interviews, even grooming advice.
"Our role is to help provide answers to: 'How can this person better market themselves?' " said Penny Kardon, JEVS' director of Career Strategies.
"It takes a lot of resources to counsel and train a person so they can be self-sufficient," added senior planner Sheva Cohen. "But it is about more than having a job. In the long-term, it not only makes a difference to the person and his or her family, it improves the community."
To learn more, call 1-866-JFCS-NOW.