Jewish Response to Homelessness

Recently, my friend Ari responded to an email written to the leaders of a local upper west side minyan regarding a local homeless man named Yosef who was reaching out for help from the Jewish community. (see “comments” for original email) This was his response:

As many of you do, I imagine, I receive a large number of sympathy stories every week in my email. Because of the familiarity of the places and names of communities, I found this one more effective than many. For those who, like me, can’t help but be skeptical about random emails like that one, I recommend thisarticle on a Jewish response to homelessness and the websites listed below:
I found a few websites including opportunities to donate money or spend time to help fight the immediate effects of homelessness and long-term need for affordable housing.

Jewish – Immediate Assistance: Enterprise Foundation
Non-sectarian – Medium-term solution: Center for Urban Community Services
Non-sectarian – Long-term/Political Solution: Working Families Party (New York)
Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now
Combination/Umbrella group (includes job training, housing services, crisis intervention, community voice mail and more): Coalition for the Homeless
(c/o Ari W.)

One thought on “Jewish Response to Homelessness

  1. I write to learn if perhaps others, participants in Kol Zimrah might have some sense of how a community could respond to a young man in need.
    [Who am I, a stranger to you who writes in email? I live on West 94th Street since the early sixties. My children live on the west coast, they are between 35 and 40. As an older person I find myself more and more on the periphery of life, but I also am able to use my experience and skills from so many years to read and to study torah, and I do ride a bike and strive after ecological waste not, want not. I live on a low income, but so far I can pay my rent, and the increases that come one after another year after year. Baruch HaShem.]
    This past Shabbos Emor I walked on the green in the park in the west eighties. So many young families and young
    singles had gathered after shabbos davening. I recognized one, only one, among all the hundreds: “Yoseph”.
    I’ve met Yoseph here and there again and again over the past several years. He is knowledgeable, bright, kind, thoughful, compassionate, and a practising vegetarian.
    I first met him when I was shopping in Life Thyme when it was on about West 83 street. He was standing outside and playing wonderful music with his guitar.
    Over time I had a chance to speak with him again and again. I learned that his grandparents had emigrated to Israel during the holocaust. His mother, an Israeli, and his Father are separated and live in separate households in Brooklyn. They must be of considerable years (Yoseph is the same age as my children, and I know the feel of time passing).
    Yoseph has no home.
    And as I slowly realized in the special hours of an especially beautiful Shabbos day, he was homeless, he had no where to live, and he would be spending that night without a roof over his head.
    I told him there was a part-time shelter at Ansche Chesed, also that young people would be gathering in the park next shabbos and would be bringing instruments (Kol Zimrah)…
    But he didn’t express any interest in either option. Living on the street as its own directories?
    But he did speak repeatedly of the need to have a place to live, to have privacy and sanctuary .
    I was filled with a sense of shame that a Jew who had stood with us at Mt.Sinai was living on the streets of New York without a room, without Shabbos, without a bed to sleep in and awaken in.
    And I thought I might make inquiries on his behalf at Ohel and other Jewish Services.
    Today I thought of Kol Zimrah and the community of partilcipants who would be Yoseph’s peers.
    Let me know your thoughts, please,
    Kol Tov,
    (name withheld for privacy)

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