JEWISH HELPING HANDS — the New York City-based foundation created in 2006 by Rabbi Joel E. Soffin, religious leader emeritus of Temple Shalom in Succasunna — has launched the Tikkun Olam grant program to “make life better for those in need.”
The program offers grants of up to $5,000 as well as partnerships with JHH that could involve assistance with hands-on work and the benefits of the experience of the organization’s leaders.
The foundation continues the social action that Soffin carried out in more than 25 years as a congregational rabbi. JHH reaches out to vulnerable populations, initiating projects in the United States and abroad that provide ground-level financial and hands-on support to individuals and communities, with local residents determining what would be most helpful.
“Social action has been the passion of my life,” said Soffin. “Retired or not, I wanted to find a way to continue to make life better for those in need. Jewish Helping Hands projects have helped support communities in need around the world, but we felt we could do more.
“The goal of this grant program,” he said, “is to widen the range of potential partners we might find to share in our efforts to improve the world. We wanted to learn about the good work that potential partner groups are doing, and not to be limited to those whom we might meet personally.”
The grant program will aim to identify new projects similar to the ones JHH has supported, including:
• In Israel, JHH partnered with United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, the Koret Foundation, and the local government and community center of Rishon Letzion to provide micro-loans and business training to Ethiopian immigrants.
• In Rwanda, JHH has worked with AVEGA, the Association of Genocide Widows, to enable women widowed during the 1994 genocide to provide for themselves and their children through small financial grants and educational workshops.
• In Cambodia, working through CambodiaSchools, JHH built a school in a village outside Phnom Penh. With Arun Sothea, who at the age of four was orphaned in the Khmer Rouge reign of terror during the 1970s, JHH sponsors several dozen orphans in the village so that they are able to attend school.