“The Southern Idaho Jewish Welfare Fund”
by Andrew M. Chasan
You all received a fund-raising letter recently. Thank you to all of those who generously responded.
Hopefully most of you have heard of the Welfare Fund, but many people are still unclear about its purpose and how the donations are spent. The Southern Idaho Jewish Welfare Fund has been in existence for over 35 years. It was established in 1975 by a group of men that only those of a certain age know or still remember: Ira K. Sarlat, Robert Hamersley, Martin Heuman, Milton Cagen, Arthur Oppenheimer, Howard Koppel, and Alexander Simons. There were not many Jews in Boise in 1975, so the original purpose of the Fund was to help itinerants and make donations to national charities. The purpose of the Fund has changed dramatically over the years. As our community has grown and matured, the Welfare Fund has evolved into an organization that provides emergency relief to members of our community.
I have been on the Board for over 30 years. Dan Ronfeld, Pettra Pollack, and Deanah Messenger are three other long-serving Directors. Andrea Leeds and Nina Spiro have also served for several years.
The need has never been greater than in recent years. Since the economy crashed, people with good jobs who have worked their whole lives were laid off and had to make do with unemployment benefits. When unemployment ran out, there were no jobs to find or if there were, the pay was so low that even if they were working, people could not make ends meet. The mortgage still had to be paid, health insurance had run out and there were doctor bills, and Idaho Power was threatening to shut off their electricity.
The Fund does not simply hand out money to people. We always meet with them personally. We want to make sure that they have a viable plan so that the money we give them will get them going in the right direction. We provide advice on community and government aid and other short-term assistance. We often work with people for as long as a year or more. Deanah is a social worker and Andrea is a counselor; however, we are not a social services agency. We view our role as emergency relief provided over a short time.
Recently, help has been given for: travel for a funeral, deposit for an assisted living facility, rent, utility bills, room rental until more permanent housing was available, and travel out of state due to family illness. Some, although not all, of these funds were repaid to the Welfare Fund.
The Southern Idaho Jewish Welfare Fund is a valid 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. All donations are tax deductible. Please contact any Board member with
your questions, suggestions, and if you are interested, with an offer to become involved. We are still accepting donations which can be sent to the Fund at: PO Box 1069, Boise, Idaho, 83701.