An all new city sponsored pilot workforce development program offering culturally sensitive employment initiatives may provide a much needed financial shot in the arm for some members of the Jewish community.
The program will be run by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Coney Island and is designed to benefit a diverse group of city residents including the Orthodox Jewish community. Steve Banks, commissioner of the New York City Department of Social Services, said that the initiative was spurred by feedback received about an employment program rolled out this past year benefitting the city’s low income population.
“At the six month interval we wanted to evaluate if there were any gaps in our services and we did find a need to reach a diverse group of young people, including young Orthodox Jewish families and individuals,” Banks told VIN News.
The JCCGCI’s previous track record of being able to serve both the broader Human Resources Administration client base, while also providing culturally appropriate services to the faith based community made them the ideal agency to run the pilot program which will serve 1,000 clients a year over its three year trial run.
More than $2.5 million will be allocated to the initiative and Banks said that if the program is successful he looks forward to expanding it further in the coming years.
Banks noted that the workforce development program reflects City Hall’s move away from one size fits all programs and, instead, to create initiative that will better reflect the needs of individuals and families who meet eligibility criteria which include those on the city’s Cash Assistance program and those receiving food stamps, among others.
Program participants would be able to take advantage of numerous services including financial counseling, mentoring, social support services and aptitude tests. They would also have access to internships, education, training and work readiness programs, as well as job development and placement opportunities.
The HRA has been moving quickly to enhance its existing programs, said Banks who hopes to have the JCCGCI pilot program up before the current fiscal year ends on June 1st.
JCCGCI executive director Rabbi Moshe Wiener said that his agency has long been advocating for a workforce program that would benefit the Jewish community after a study showed that the city’s career initiatives were not adequately reaching Brooklyn’s vast Jewish population.
He praised City Hall for its efforts to bring the program to fruition, noting that Mayor Bill de Blasio has been “very, very supportive of the concept.”
The JCCGCI will be working closely with the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, the Boro Park Jewish Community Council, the Sephardic Community Federation, the Jewish Community Council of the Rockaway Peninsula, Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, and the Queens Jewish Community Council on the program, which is historic in at least one regard.
“It is the first that I am aware of that specifically targets the Charedi community,” said Rabbi Wiener. “It is open to the general public as well but it is designed to be responsive to and inclusive of the Charedi population while other programs might not be culturally aligned to those populations.”
Avi Greenstein, executive director of the Boro Park JCC said that he is grateful to the mayor’s office for crafting a program that understands the unique needs of the Jewish community.
“There is no greater act of kindness than to help people find a well-paying job,” said Greenstein. “The Boro Park JCC is grateful for the workforce initiative which will help a large number in our community find meaningful employment opportunities.”