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jeudi 27 juillet 2017

La pauvreté existe aussi dans la communauté juive

La Presse
Nouvelles générales, samedi 10 novembre 1990, p. A19

Non, les juifs ne sont pas tous riches comme Crésus! Envers les préjugés les plus tenaces, un groupe de chercheurs de l'université McGill vient de conclure une étude montrant que les juifs canadiens ont eux aussi leurs paumés et leurs nécessiteux.

Si cette enquête, entreprise voilà dix ans, indique que la moyenne de juifs pauvres est moins élevée que la moyenne nationale, il n'en demeure pas moins que les gens de religion hébraïque font face à des problèmes tout aussi criants que les non juifs dans le besoin.

«Quand je parle de pauvreté juive, raconte Soli Benamron, de l'organisme de lutte contre la pauvreté Le Baron de Hirsh, les gens me regardent comme si cela était chose impossible. Pourtant les juifs pauvres ont aussi faim et froid que tous les autres pauvres.»

Elle cite en exemple ces personnes qui hésitaient à demander de l'aide parce qu'elles avaient trop honte de leur état de pauvreté. Plus encore, les juifs ne se servent guère des organismes d'État pour s'en sortir, honteux et isolés dans leur indigence. «Le fait de ne pas croire en la pauvreté des juifs fait en sorte que ceux-ci se sentent coupables de leur situation et tardent donc à demander de l'aide», stipule Alice Herscovitch, membre du projet Genèse de Côte-des-Neiges, qui a participé à la réalisation de l'étude.

Ce type de comportement, de même que les préjugés des «autres», la communauté juive voudrait les éliminer. L'enquête de l'université McGill met de l'avant des comparaisons entre la pauvreté juive et la pauvreté non juive. Ainsi, 30 p. cent des juifs pauvres sont des personnes âgées, contre 15 p. cent chez l'ensemble des Canadiens. La moitié des juifs pauvres vivent seuls, comparativement au quart pour l'ensemble de la population du Canada. Deux femmes juives sur trois qui demeurent seules sont pauvres.

Chose certaine, il y a moins de sans-le-sou chez les juifs que dans le reste de la population (17 p. cent au lieu de 25 p. cent à l'échelle nationale). «C'est un peu à cause de la solidarité de la communauté», selon Alice Herscovitch.

Cette solidarité ne suffit cependant pas et Mme Herscovitch souhaite que toutes les communautés luttent en choeur contre le même phénomène. «Et les gouvernements doivent livrer autre chose à la population que des réformes à l'assurance-chômage et à l'aide sociale, la TPS et la récession économique.»

jeudi 25 mai 2017

"Dans les logements sociaux, on ne mélange plus les juifs et les musulmans", d’après Joëlle Dago-Serry

Joëlle Dago-Serry M'écrit ceci: "J'ai évoqué au cours de l'émission d'hier le fait que les juifs étaient logés en HLM, et certains auditeurs s'en sont étonnés. Ce qui m'a surpris c'est que certains puissent s'étonner que les juifs aient eux aussi besoin d'un logement social."

vendredi 25 novembre 2016

Have We Forgotten the Jewish Poor?

Most Jewish holidays are heavy and laden with restrictions. But some, without being any less meaningful, are a lot of fun. Purim is one of them. It's a festival that's more about glamor than grit: we sport costumes that put Halloween to shame, spend hours baking triangular pastries (or free-ride off the labor of others), and have fun shaking pasta-filled cartons to drown out a bad guy’s name. And that’s not even the half of it. On Purim eve, Jews across the world fulfill—with grudging, painful reluctance, I must concede—the religious obligation to drink until they can’t tell the difference between Mordechai the hero and Haman the villain.
Yet, there’s more to Purim than sanctioned revelry and reciting the megillah—the cosmically-savage tale that recounts Esther’s takedown of Haman: It's the obligation of preparing and delivering mishloach manot, food packages, to one’s friends, and matnot l'evyonim— food packages and charity to the poor (we'll refer to this whole giving-arrangement by the well-known term mishloach manot).
Mishloach manot were not meant to be a Jewish social idiosyncrasy. As Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld notes, we give them to our friends and family as well as the poor because singling out the poor might make them feel ashamed. The custom’s specific orientation toward the poor is evident from the fact that its rabbinic requirement can be satisfied only by donating food.
That Purim contrasts mirthful indulgence with serious responsibility makes it an appropriate time to reflect on our obligation as Jews to specifically help others, and not just any others, but other Jews. In March 1776, Abigail Adams wrote a now-famous letter to her husband John, imploring him to “remember the ladies” when waging his grand, transformative fight for independence from Britain. This Purim, I see fit to adapt her poetic formulation to suit Purim and the idea of mishloach manot: Remember the Jews.
Indeed, many of us have forgotten them. As Anna Heim, who produced the 2014 documentary "Jews Got Money," a short film that examines taboos about wealth and poverty among American-Jews, notes in the Huffington Post, “while 'tzedakah' and philanthropy are deeply entrenched in the Jewish culture, many Jews ignore that members of their community also need support.”
By saying this I don't mean to promote tribal insularity, or to impugn that spirit of universal altruism that forms a cornerstone of the identity of many Jews. But I am hazarding that while we’re helping others, we need to make sure that our own house is in order. Because right now, it's not. In Israel, a government report concluded last year that 775,500 children suffer from poverty, making Israel one of the worst OECD countries in that regard. And while the American Jewish community is generally well-off, its wealth—like the rest of America’s national fortune—is unevenly distributed. Pew’s 2013 “Portrait of Jewish Americans” found that while two-thirds of Jews make above $75,000 per year, about 20 percent have incomes below $20,000.
There is no shortage of Jewish philanthropists ready to make out checks to (very worthy) non-Jewish causes. "Borat" star Sacha Baron Cohen, for example, basked in the spotlight for a commendable $1 million donation to Syrian refugees, but it’s depressing that Look to the Stars, a website that tracks celebrity philanthropy, does not show any contributions he’s made to the Jewish community. He's not alone. A 2013 report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy showed that American-Jews—younger ones, especially—were quite latitudinarian in their gift-giving.
When offering unsolicited advice, it’s important to also give credit where credit is due. In March 2014, The Forward published a breakdown of the American-Jewish community’s titanic institutional budget, concluding that about one-third of its resources are spent on social services.
Having said that, big-picture politics can, to a certain extent, distract us from simple, casual responsibilities. Anti-Israel hostility is metastasizing in the United States and Europe, and the Jewish community has diverted a vast fortune to combatting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and buttressing Israel’s firewall on Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, Zionism is tenuous among younger Jews and controversial among younger non-Jews, and the pressures of assimilation erode the American-Jewish population.  Faced with these problems, Jewish philanthropy appears to have been more focused on political activism and Jewish education, and less focused on plain old charity for the needy.
The broader challenges facing us aren’t going to abate, and these trials understandably occupy the minds of Jewish community leaders. Yet as we approach a holiday that exalts the mitzvah of giving to the poor, we should take care to remember all the Jews.

mardi 1 novembre 2016

First Documentary of Its Kind Tackles Issue of Jewish Poverty

by Menachem Rephun

One in five Jewish New Yorkers live in poverty. This problem is tackled in the 2012 documentary Jews Got Money which also seeks to debunk the myth that all Jews are wealthy.
“Jews without money have always existed, and they still do,” Anna Heim, the documentary’s producer, wrote in a 2013 Huffington Post article. According to Heim, “It’s not only about members of the Jewish Orthodox community: in New York City, which has the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, the Jewish poor also include elderly Holocaust survivors who lost their relatives and Soviet Jews who emigrated to the U.S. after the fall of the USSR, as well as families who, like many of their fellow Americans, deeply suffered from the financial crisis.”
Sasha Andreas, the film’s director, said the documentary received the greatest media attention in Andreas’ native France, where anti-Semitism is a growing problem. Andreas told JP he was disappointed that the film was greeted with relative indifference in the United States. Although he is not Jewish himself, he believes the issue is important and worth tackling.
“We are deeply saddened to see that the first documentary on this topic is welcomed with indifference, skepticism and silent hostility,” Heim wrote in 2013. “Not only does ignorance fuel anti-Semitism, but it also deprives dedicated charities from donations they need as much as ever. While ‘tzedakah‘ and philanthropy are deeply entrenched in the Jewish culture, many Jews don’t know that invisible members of their community also need help.”

"Jew$ Got Money" - a documentary on the myth that all or most Jews are wealthy. | Reelhouse 

“Only a dozen of media in the world talked to us,” Andreas told JP, adding that he feels the issue of Jewish poverty remains taboo. Andreas noted that the documentary was supported by Professor Steven Pinker, a linguist, psychologist, and popular science author, who serves as a psychology professor at Harvard University.
“Professor Pinker is one of our rare supports,” Andreas said. “Despite great supports like him or Guy Kawasaki or Biz Stone, 0 US media showed any interest… That’s sad because in the same time, they complain on the rise of antisemitism regularly.”
The 40-minute documentary, produced on a budget of $2,000, is the first to tackle the issue of poverty in the Jewish community.
“A documentary on this subject has never been done before and I believed people would be happy to see someone finally address this issue, but most want to keep it that way,” Andreas said in 2013. “I only expected the title to pose some problems, but in the end it was the least of their concerns.”

lundi 24 octobre 2016

Jewish Organizations Unite to Tackle Poverty

A community service fair addressing the issue of poverty in the Jewish community took place at the JCC of Washington Heights-Inwood Sunday, and was co-sponsored by The Workmen’s Circle, NYC Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Mark Levine, the Washington Heights-Inwood JCC, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, and the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit.
Larry Moskowitz, the Social Justice Director of the Workmen’s Circle, told JP at the event that 45% of Jewish children in the area live in poor households. Moskowitz noted that “support has grown” in efforts to tackle the issue of poverty within the Jewish community, adding that a Community Service Fair held at the Washington Heights Y in March attracted up to 300 people.
The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty was also represented. Founded in 1972, the organization offers help to needy New Yorkers, including seniors, for whom it provides free home repairs. To be eligible, New Yorkers must be 60 years or older, reside in NYC, and show financial need, according to
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer told JP that the Met Council is a “lifeline” for many poor Jewish seniors in New York. Brewer said that NY City Council has worked with the JCC to address the issue of poverty, and that there are many organizations working to alleviate the crisis.
Another venerable organization participating in the event was the Legal Aid Society. Founded in 1876, the Legal Aid Society is the largest and oldest non-profit U.S. organization which provides free legal services for clients unable to afford legal counsel. A representative of the Legal Aid Society said the organization advocates for tenants who need repairs from their landlords, and those whoa are in danger of eviction.
The Workmen’s Circle, which co-sponsored the event, is a Jewish non-profit organization promoting social and economic justice, Yiddish language studies, and Jewish community and education. The organization, which was formed in 1900, says it is “not defined by or confined by religious beliefs. For us, identity and belonging are found in our heritage, values, ideals, language, cultural traditions and celebrations. We have been cultivating a proudly progressive, diverse, and inclusive community rooted in Jewish culture and social action for more than a century.”
According to sobering statistics compiled in a 2012 UJA-Federation report, one in five Jewish households in the New York area is poor, while one in 10 Jewish households are near poor.
The report found that one in four people out of all those living in the New York area live in a poor household, compared with “one in five people living in a poor Jewish neighborhood.”
“The breadth and depth of Jewish poverty in the greater New York City area is staggering, and deeply concerning,” Ann Toback, Executive Director of the Workmen’s Circle, said in a statement.
“Since our founding more than a century ago, the Workmen’s Circle has focused on helping generations of families overcome the obstacles of poverty, and to experience better and more beautiful lives.”