In the GTA, over 20,000 of our Jewish neighbours, relatives & volunteers live on the fringe of community life, marginalized from our affluent community by living in poverty. The Jewish Poverty Action Group (JPAG), a strategic collaboration of four agencies - JIAS Toronto, Jewish Vocational Service, Jewish Family and Child (JF&CS) and Kehilla Residential Programme - worked with 10 Jewish families living in poverty to enhance their standard of living and improve the quality of their Jewish communal lives through collaborative strategies. JPAG made an investment in the families’ future. It identified three major challenges that contribute to poverty, and then sought to collaboratively address them: unemployment/underemployment, unaffordable/under-housing and lack of social inclusion/connectedness to community. Within a framework of shared values and guiding principles and actions, JPAG created a transformational poverty-reduction model that crossed agency lines to break the cycle of poverty. During the course of overseeing this program an urgent need was exposed in the Jewish community. Jewish social service organizations and institutions demand that every applicant repeat the onerous and restrictive registration process in order to qualify for service or membership. It became obvious that Jewish community members living in poverty are faced with this additional barrier to their affiliation with Jewish institutions and services. The JPAG Project Phase 2 seeks to address that need by developing and implementing a single, seamless point of access to Jewish social services and community institutions, and developing and institutionalizing a Charter of Care for the vulnerable in our community. Our poverty reduction pilot was a game changer, and it is incumbent upon our community to ensure its potential is harnessed in order to transform the lives of the roughly 20,000 Jewish poor in Toronto. We see the promotion and nurturing of Jewish life and affiliation as a community imperative. This is a big idea, and we need a big player like SixPoints to help us make it work.
During the course of overseeing the Jewish Poverty Action Group’s Poverty Reduction Pilot Project an urgent need was identified in the Toronto Jewish community. Each time a Jewish family applies for subsidized services from Jewish educational programs, Jewish camps, Jewish schools, Jewish social services, Jewish community centres, or Jewish religious institutions, that family is required to undergo the intimidating and restrictive registration or application process in order to qualify for service or membership. This requirement serves to marginalise those already feeling isolated, disenfranchised and unaffiliated. THe JPAG Project Phase 2 seeks to address that need by developing a single, seamless point of access to Jewish social services and community institutions. By initiating and negotiating partnerships with Jewish institutions, such as synagogues, educational institutions, social service agencies and community centres we will enable those living in poverty to access those services in an equitable, welcoming, and inclusive way. A comprehensive framework will be developed which will thereby serve the vulnerable and benefit the entire community for many years to come. Stronger affiliation with Jewish community institutions ensures the vibrant future of our Jewish families and community. JPAG holds the shared belief that those living in strained circumstances should be granted equal and dignified access to these institutions, services and opportunities in order to take full advantage of them.
The goal of the JPAG Project Phase 2 is to ensure that the vulnerable in our community are included in all aspects of Jewish life, and in doing so, feel more strongly affiliated to Jewish communal life. Our goal is to ensure that Jewish community and social institutions are strongly supported by increased membership and participation by all Jewish community members. Our goal is to provide access to these institutions in a respectful, dignified way that increases each and every Jewish person’s sense of connection to, and involvement with, the Jewish community. Our goal is to provide the Jewish community of Greater Toronto with a “Charter of Care” that provides a statement of principles to guide community efforts for the vulnerable. In this Charter we will state that, for example, no Jewish child should be excluded from school or community activities because of lack of funds. This Charter will provide the community with a ‘gold standard’ to which we can aspire in supporting the vulnerable in our community. Our goal is to set up a sustainable and dynamic community infrastructure for this purpose that can be grown and duplicated among our own and other communities in Canada. It will be the basis for ongoing supports and investments in the vulnerable of our community so that the JPAG’s successful pilot project can grow and be supported through additional phases of the initial program. Achievement of these goals can be measured by the number of Jewish institutions and organisations committed to an ongoing, clearly defined partnership agreement, and endorsement of the Charter of Care. Many of our Jewish community organizations already informally participate in principle in providing for the vulnerable in our community. Our project goal is to formalize and qualify the provision of services to the vulnerable so that it exists beyond staff and leadership of individual institutions and services. Success will also be measured by surveying the participants engaged in these services both at the start, during and after the establishment of the single point of access to the services and memberships.
We have demonstrated through the ‘proof of concept’ pilot project and with our ongoing collaborative efforts that the JPAG model works in alleviating the devastating effects of living in poverty. It does so by promoting and encouraging affiliation with Jewish social and service institutions. What is required now is a shift in community thinking and practice to invest in the JPAG approach during periods of social & economic vulnerability. When times are tough and resources scarce, we need each other more than ever, and the timing of the SixPoints JVPF could not be better. With expertise in financial models, fundraising, strategic planning, policy analysis, website development and more, we envision partnering with SixPoints JVPF members to advise and guide us in the successful negotiation of both the Charter of Care and the partnership agreements between Jewish organisations. It is our hope that participants will serve as ambassadors of the JPAG Project Phase 2 to the community and its affiliated agencies and institutions. We look to the SixPoints JVPF participants to help us champion the paradigm shift in how we relate to each other as equally valuable members of our diverse, multi-faceted Jewish community. We also hope to collaborate with SixPoints JVPF members to help us market the value of the JPAG’s successful approach to enhancing the quality of life and Jewish communal participation of its clients in ways that will grow its reach and transformative effect, not just in Toronto, but across North America.
We are prepared to begin the project immediately with the (re)hiring of a part-time JPAG staff coordinator. From the time the pilot project finished until now, the agencies have continued to meet to maintain momentum and to ensure continued support to the 10 families who participated in the program. However, work of this magnitude requires a dedicated staff person and the commitment of community to succeed. It is our intention, upon receipt of funding, to implement Phase 2 over the next 24 months. It is our hope that the funds will permit us the time to create, with the help of the SixPoints JVPF members, the necessary paradigm shift so that the JPAG approach will become an institutionalized model in our community. It is our hope that eventually the JPAG Project Phase 2 will be seen as critical enough to be eligible for UJA Federation's core funding. Whatever the outcome, the establishment of the infrastructure of this program will benefit the Jewish community in countless ways.
The sponsor staff is comprised of representatives from each of the four agencies and UJA Federation. JF&CS Toronto will serve as the lead agency to administer the budget & provide supervision to the JPAG Coordinator. JF&CS brings a wide- ranging wealth of expert services to Jewish families, “every step of the way.” The agency, moreover, has a long history of supporting families living in poverty through its Supplemental Financial Assistance Program. JIAS Toronto brings years of expertise and experience in providing settlement (including Financial Assistance) & integration services to newcomers and in connecting new immigrants to Jewish community life. Kehilla brings nearly 30 years of non-profit housing experience, including numerous innovative housing projects such as the Jewish Community Affordable Rental Program (JCARP). Jewish Vocational Service brings decades of experience in delivering career and employment services to individuals with barriers to employment, unemployed and underemployed. Together, the JPAG brings the best of its constituent organizations to meet its shared goal and responsibility to its clients: giving them all the tools they need to affiliate, thrive and reach their potential.
From 2006 until we received funding for our pilot in 2008-2010, representatives of the member agencies, represented by Executive Directors or senior staff, met regularly to develop the JPAG Poverty Reduction concept and share expertise and resources across our respective organizations. With an investment from the Jewish Foundation, we were able to hire a part-time coordinator (administered and supervised by JF&CS), who worked directly with the target families & their caseworkers, as well as coordinated the efforts of the agencies. The JPAG members operate as a true collaborative, whereby each organization believes that it needs the others to succeed, and that no one agency could succeed on its own. All JPAG member agencies are committed to continuing their in-kind support, expertise and accountability oversight to Phase 2 of the project. The combined experience and expertise of all the member agencies served to inform and guide the development of the successful pilot project, and they will continue to lend to the project their vast knowledge and best practices, developed over years of working with the vulnerable. JF&CS would continue its role of lead agency and project administrator.
JPAG meets all the criteria outlined by SixPoints JVPF. If we are successful in obtaining a grant, we will use the funds to hire the Coordinator for 24 months, and use the opportunity to implement a sustainable, innovative and very necessary initiative that will thrive and grow over the long term. With the business expertise and guidance of the SixPoint JVPF participants we can have a positive impact not only the vulnerable of our community, but also on our community institutions. THe JPAG Project Phase 2 seeks to bring together our dreams and aspirations for not only a vibrant and inclusive Jewish community, but also for committed, affiliated and involved individuals and families which immeasurably enrich our entire community. We need an innovative model like the JPAG Project Phase 2. It can be scaled to meet the complex and layered needs of any and all community members however they experience financial vulnerability or poverty. It can be expanded to include other service providers and constituents, and can be used as an engagement model for volunteers and professionals alike.