JFCS/East Bay’s emergency financial assistance program, Project Ezra, addresses the urgent community need for a compassionate and professional response to Jews in financial crisis. The program began in 1994 as a joint project of JFCS/East Bay and the East Bay Council of Rabbis. Over the years, Project Ezra has provided assistance, support, and referrals for thousands of people.
With the onset of the current recession, Project Ezra has seen a dramatic shift in the numbers of client coming to us and the reasons that they are requesting assistance. Historically, some Project Ezra clients were facing discrete one-time crises due to a brief period of unemployment, serious illness, divorce, or domestic violence, while other clients came to us periodically due to chronic challenges related to disabilities, mental health, and substance abuse problems. In the midst of this economic crisis, we are now seeing people with much more intense and complex issues due to prolonged periods of unemployment and underemployment. Their lack of income is significantly affecting every aspect of these people’s lives—their ability to pay rent, grocery bills, medical bills, child care expenses, and other necessities.
Many Project Ezra clients are in danger of falling through the cracks, with no support systems and nowhere else to turn. Project Ezra staff assess the client’s needs, authorize financial assistance when appropriate, and assist the client in developing future plans. In some instances, we also provide case management, connection to other resources, and ongoing, in-depth support. Project Ezra is unique in scope and purpose—no other programs specifically provide emergency financial assistance and case management services for vulnerable East Bay Jews.