All Jews are wealthy, right? So goes the stereotype even we—San Diego Jews, love to believe. In 2019, a study commissioned by a local group of philanthropists and Jewish organizations disproved the notion. The findings were surprising: over 20 percent of Jewish households in San Diego County live in poverty or on the edge of poverty. This translates as 9,000 individuals that live in poverty as technically defined, and thousands more who are this close. An unexpected medical issue, a broken car, or a shortened shift is all it takes to tip the scales for many.
These statistics were the seed for what is now the Kindness Initiative (KI), a non-profit dedicated to aiding Jewish individuals in San Diego in need, filling the gaps in services offered by other local organizations, and often creating a bridge between them. Based on the Talmudic principle of Jews’ responsibility toward each other, KI created a unique program. Its priority is to help beneficiaries access critical basic needs. If the case allows, they can work on a personalized plan toward self-sustainability. Though services are free, beneficiaries are called “members” by the organization’s staff and volunteers, proving how far the organization will go to preserve a beneficiary’s dignity.
Concierge Case Management
Shira (not her real name), a single mother of two facing eviction in 2022, reached out to Kindness in desperation.
“Kindness helped me cover immediate needs, providing an emergency stipend and connecting me with other resources,” she said. “Later, I sat down with a volunteer ‘angel.’ We set an action plan, which she’s helping me follow. It may sound corny, but she is an angel, indeed. My life is now moving in the right direction.”
Shira describes Kindness’ Concierge Case Management service, a key element in KI’s program. A group of experts assesses the situation of members. They identify the areas which are rendering the member vulnerable. They direct them toward food security, shelter, health, and safety resources. Other challenges are met with different solutions. Crippling debt may be addressed by an interest-free loan from Hebrew Free Loan, joblessness with the help of a volunteer career coach, and so on.
Ways to Help … And Receive Aid
Kindness Initiative runs on a very lean model with minimal operational costs. The bulk of its resources goes directly to local Jews in need. There are many giving opportunities, from cash donations to legacy gifts and endowments. In-kind contributions are channeled through San Diego Jewish Closet -Gemach, which KI now operates.
Volunteers are vital to the non-profit’s success. The organization provides its members with various free services and seeks to expand its offer with the community’s help. Contact Kindness if you have a particular skill or service to donate. You can volunteer as many hours or services as you wish. Currently, KI offers medical, pharmaceutical, dental, transportation, substance abuse, and domestic violence counseling resources.