The Welfare of the People
As I write, Pesach is almost upon us. It is a time of year when we spare a thought for the needy who may not have family or friends with whom to share the holiday, nor anyone to provide them with the support they so vitally need.
In every ESRAmagazine we write about some aspect of ESRA's work in the community, taking pride in how our projects are building a stronger society. However, a lesser known ESRA activity often gets neglected, and that is the magnificent work being carried out by our Welfare Committee. Under the guidance of several experienced ESRA veterans, the committee meets monthly to discuss distribution of grants from the ESRA Welfare Fund to financially stressed college and university students, enabling them to continue their studies, or to families or individuals who have fallen on hard times and for whom a little extra help keeps them going with hope for the future.
According to the Israel National Insurance Institute more than 25% of Israelis are "poor or nearly poor". Indeed, according to a report of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), Israel's percentage of full-time workers earning significantly low wages is way above average, and Israel has the highest level of poverty within certain sectors of society among any of their 36 member countries.
Recently published statistics by the Adva Center show that while the Israeli economy has grown, the general standard of living has not necessarily grown apace. The authors added that, "the Israeli government needs to upgrade the public education system and increase higher education opportunities".
Statistics also show that expenditure on healthcare and educational services are the first to suffer in times of crisis. It is in precisely these areas that the Welfare Committee is doing its fine work, providing small grants to those who are struggling, assisting welfare cases and supplementing educational shortfalls.
Applications for ESRA's assistance, open to all Israeli citizens, can be made online through our website: www.esra.org.il. Applicants must provide some personal information, and generally a letter of recommendation from a social worker is requested to accompany the application. Once received, it is discussed and evaluated by the ESRA Welfare Committee, and a decision is reached for each individual case.
Grants to financially stressed students are made directly to the relevant educational institute toward their tuition fees, while welfare recipients generally receive the grant directly to their bank account.
With the decision to help as many as we can, the grants provided are small compared with the recipients' needs. Some of the stories encountered by the committee on a monthly basis are truly heart-breaking. But every little bit helps and we know that ESRA's contributions are getting people back on their feet. The heartfelt letters of thanks that ESRA receives attest to that, and it is very gratifying to hear from students that the support they received enabled them to complete their studies and subsequently embark on their chosen careers.
ESRA's Welfare Committee is made up entirely of volunteers, dedicated and proud of the work they are doing and the effect it is having, quietly creating a better Israel.
All of us in ESRA share a love of Israel and care deeply about the future of the country and our fellow citizens. By working in the neediest areas, we can help our youth succeed both academically, and by developing worthwhile life values. We also help empower people to become self-sufficient, thanks to the dedicated work of our professional staff and the caring contribution of each and every one of our volunteers.
Now to a special "Save the Date" notice. This year's AGM will take place on 16th June at the TEO Cultural Center, 168 Wingate Street, Herzliya Pituach. All members are invited to attend, get updated on ESRA activities, and share their views on all aspects of the organization.
While we carry on with our activities and keep optimistic, we are also aware that these are difficult times and the sudden development of the Coronavirus COVID-19 has created fear and confusion everywhere. We in ESRA hope that this threat passes as quickly as it arrived and that you all stay safe and enjoy a wonderful Pesach holiday surrounded by the warmth of your family and friends.