When the women at Congregation Mikveh Israel established the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society in 1819 to help local Jewish women in need, they appropriately described their mission as benevolence. That word emphasizes the action of the donors whereas charity often is interpreted as a characterization of the recipients. Today we continue to help those in the five-county, Greater Philadelphia community who are struggling in our very tight economy to buy prescription drugs, to get a car out of the repair shop or to give their children or custodial grandchildren the chance for a happy summer at camp. In a small but critical way, FHBS helps lessen the burden of financial pressures. We do this with the cooperation of other organizations under the umbrella of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Working together, the Jewish community strives to be of assistance to those who need our help. Through social workers at Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS), Abramson Center for Jewish Life, Klein JCC, Heart to Heart and others, we receive appeals for aid. When we learn of the struggles, both emotional and financial, that encumber our fellow Jews, we realize how crucial it is to extend a helping hand. What follows are summarized accounts of just a few cases where FHBS has made a difference with aid in the last six-months.
Henry, a 60-year-old supervisor in a government agency, has assumed responsibility for taking care of his adult daughter with mental health issues and her two young children, each with learning disabilities. They live with him at the home he owns, and he provides for them. The children are enrolled in day care programs both before and after school so he can continue to work. Knowing a Jewish day camp experience would benefit his seven-year-old granddaughter, who follows an individualized education plan at school, Henry applied for assistance to help pay the part of the camp costs he could not handle. Together with the Jewish Federation, JFCS and the camp itself, FHBS made it possible for his granddaughter to have a sunny, enriching summer experience.
Susan is a 48-year-old, divorced, social services professional who found herself in the demoralizing position of needing financial help herself. Several years ago, she was diagnosed with colon cancer and could not work while she received treatment. She applied for Social Security Disability and began to receive a pension. With three children in college and a clean bill of health, she decided that she could and needed to return to work. However, repairs on her four-year-old car totaled over $400, a sum she did not have. So, FHBS paid for the repair and enabled Susan to once again support herself and assist her family.
Bernice, a 79-year-old, retired widow, subsists on her Social Security of $23,000 a year. She lives in a rental apartment. A recent dental bill depleted her savings. So when a cyst in her jaw required immediate attention, she turned to JFCS for emergency aid. FHBS, incooperation with JFCS, paid a total of $636 for the second, necessary procedure.
Jane is 51, divorced and disabled and lives with a boyfriend who works under the table and pays many of the household bills. During a span of extremely hot weather, his ability to work was limited. Jane’s Social Security Disability check was not enough to make up for this loss of income. She panicked when the city threatened to shut off their water if the $204 bill wasn’t paid. FHBS came through with immediate aid.
Increasingly, FHBS receives such appeals for assistance from case managers advocating for their clients. These appeals often come on behalf of Jewish women in our community who have never received monetary aid in the past. They are not asking for a dole or regular support. These women humbly ask for help in a particularly trying situation because they don’t have the income or savings to handle the crisis. Thanks to our generous donors, FHBS can be there for them.
Written by Judy Richards