Hanukkah comes early in 2018, but staff and board members at the Jewish Children’s Regional Service have been planning since late spring to be sure that Jewish youth from financially challenged families in the mid-South, and those who are socially isolated, are not forgotten by the greater Jewish community this year.
Recipients in the Oscar J. Tolmas Hanukkah Gift Program of JCRS each receive at least eight gender and age-specific wrapped gifts, one for each night of Hanukkah. Gifts were wrapped in October at a huge community event in Greater New Orleans and a second smaller event in Dallas, co-sponsored with the Jewish Federation of Dallas, in mid-November.
At press time, at least 250 Jewish youth and state hospital residents were scheduled to receive gift packages. As a result of the early date of 2018 Hanukkah, beginning just 10 days after Thanksgiving, packages were shipped or delivered in mid to late November to Jewish youth in all seven states served by JCRS: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.
The Hanukkah Gift Program, which obtains and wraps thousands of small gifts each year, is a program that typically helps 250-350 individuals each holiday season, and is also just one of seven major JCRS programs that annually assist 1,700 unduplicated Jewish youth.
Youth who are provided overnight camp scholarships, college financial aid and targeted subsidies to address special needs or dependency, must have families or guardians who can document their financial need, as well as the underlying need for the service. Approximately 500 unduplicated Jewish youth are funded each year just for these scholarships and subsidies.
JCRS assists close to 1,100 Jewish youth annually in five states through the nationally-heralded PJ Library Program, a free service that provides monthly Jewish books to all children through age 8.
JCRS also operates a Special Friends Club that communicates with approximately 50 isolated Jewish youth and recognizes birthdays, life cycle events and special achievements, by way of cards and gifts.
The agency conducts special Jewish holiday outreach mailings to approximately 125 of the most socially isolated and vulnerable Jewish families in the region. In addition to the gifts that families receive at Hanukkah time, families receive apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah, masks and hamantaschen for Purim, and in 2019 will begin receiving a very small box of matzah from JCRS staff and volunteers for Passover.
All JCRS programs receive their primary funding from individual, family and foundation support. If you would like to support any of the programs of this 163 year-old Jewish children’s agency, the first of its kind in the United States, contact the New Orleans headquarters at 1-800-729-5277. The development director, Mark Rubin, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and the executive director, Ned Goldberg, can be reached at email@example.com. ■
For more information, visit www.jcrs.org.