Background. The Needs of San Diego s Jewish Community

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1 Needs in the San Diego Jewish Community Findings from Research Conversations with Professional Leadership The Jewish Community Foundation and the Jewish Women s Foundation Background In February 2013, the Center for Leadership Initiatives (CLI) conducted focus groups and interviews with professional leadership from the Jewish community in San Diego. As part of a listening effort that takes place every few years, the goal of these conversations was to offer the Jewish Community Foundation (JCF) and the Jewish Women s Foundation (JWF) the opportunity to hear the voices of community professionals as they described the needs they are encountering among their target constituencies and others. Initially designed to focus on the needs of Jewish women and girls in the San Diego area, past experience indicated that these meetings were also a unique opportunity to gather perspectives about needs encountered in the broader Jewish population as well. Two focus groups were conducted over the course of a single day. The first included six communal professionals and the second included five congregational rabbis. Three additional telephone interviews with professional leadership who could not attend the focus groups were conducted several days later. The lists of participants and the protocols from these groups appears in the appendices to this document. The following report summarizes needs and recommendations identified of both the broader Jewish community in San Diego and of women and girls specifically. The Needs of San Diego s Jewish Community The following findings reflect general themes about San Diego s Jewish community that arose during the focus groups and interviews. While perspectives were never unanimous, the following reflects key themes that arose in the discussions. 1. Employment While the challenges created by the economic crisis seem to have plateaued somewhat in the past year or two, its impacts continue to be profoundly experienced by a variety of populations within the Jewish community of San Diego. In fact, Torah High reports that approximately 25-30% of its families have no wage earner. Almost all informants discussed the challenges of helping those seeking employment. These included individuals who are chronically unemployed 1 (longer than one year) and unemployed single parents. The most significant need that emerged from these conversations was for enhanced employment services that offer personalized and long-term support services (rather than one-off group trainings or workshops). Informants emphasized targeting such services to the needs of 1 Approximately one-third of the unemployed seeking assistance from JFS have been out of work for over a year. See for details on the challenges of chronic unemployment. 1

2 different groups men, women, early-stage career seekers, the later-stage unemployed, single parent families as each necessitated unique approaches. Individuals undergoing significant career transitions - who are on the brink of or in the midst of re-training programs were noted of particular need of support. 2. Support Services Economic challenges naturally produce challenges in domestic environments, and unemployment itself creates a range of psychological, social and economic challenges and resulting needs for many in the community. JFS reports a 42% rise in domestic violence calls in the past year alone (this number does not indicate a causative rise in abuse rates, but is nonetheless an important number to take into consideration), with 500 unduplicated calls around domestic violence during the past year. JFS has additionally noted an increase in the number of calls its Counseling Department has received related to divorce and separation. 90% of those referred for counselling to JFS live on an annual family income of less than $42,000. The organization is seeing these numbers steadily increase. Given this landscape, key needs for support services identified by focus group participants include the following: Men are in dire need of psychological and peer support as they navigate economic challenges. Congregational rabbis report that they often hear from families that the men, often struggling with the confidence and self-worth issues related to unemployment, have nowhere to turn, with their struggles deleteriously affecting the whole family system. There is little training in the Orthodox community regarding how to deal with the psychological needs of community members (substance use, gambling, domestic violence, etc.). Many rabbis are not sensitized to these needs and do not have lists of counsellors and agencies to whom they can refer community members. While JFS was praised repeatedly by informants for this research, there remains a need to publicize JFS service offerings to and through relevant Jewish institutions. It is important to note that only 3.3% of clients to JFS were referred to the organization by other Jewish community institutions last year. Many community members, particularly those who live on the fringe (those who are older, economically challenged or contending with mental health issues), do not know of JFS services. 3. Scholarships From formal to informal education programs, synagogue dues and any other programs that call for tuition or membership payments, professionals are reporting an increased number of requests for scholarships. For some, these scholarship funds make the difference between participation in Jewish community activities or not. Scholarships mentioned included not only day school and other full time programs but also scholarships for Israel trips, summer camp and JCC programs. 2

3 The financial choices that Jews in San Diego are making, given the current economic climate, likely will result in the reduction of touch points for local Jews with community institutions and programs (informants report that affiliation numbers are already quite low, currently around 15%). A deeper issue that arose in the focus groups is that the scholarships that do exist target those individuals already connected to the Jewish community. There is a real need to think about scholarships, those who are already able to access them, and how to increase the reach of these scholarships to individuals on the fringes of the community. 4. Loneliness Issues of isolation and loneliness seem to be endemic to many populations supported by the professionals who informed this research. At various points, informants targeted every demographic, gender and life stage: Unemployed men are incredibly lonely. Single women are incredibly lonely. Older folks are terribly lonely. This went on and on. This problem that ails American society overall is exacerbated by the lack of central gathering venues - particularly for those of the margins of Jewish community in San Diego. The basic desire to have more opportunities to meet like-minded peers at similar stages of life was palpable in these conversations. This would be an intervention that would not only address the loneliness factor, but would add acuity to understanding specific needs within the community and for developing peer-to-peer and community-based models for addressing them. We would be remiss in reporting the perspectives of the informants to this research without giving due voice to rabbis concern about the status of men in the Jewish community. As one rabbi commented, We won t be able to fix anything until we fix our men. Informants reported that most men do not have the tools or the societal backing to create support systems for themselves. This isolation, particularly experienced by those being challenged by the economy through loss of employment or loss of revenue in general, was contributing to depression, the deterioration of relationships, and the family system as a whole. They suggested innovative approaches to building networks of men softball leagues, etc. to both get the men out of the house and to place them in peer-based environments where their loneliness is reduced and they experience their challenges with like-minded peers. 5. Aging Baby Boomers Aging baby boomers were particularly noted as an emerging population in need of strategic thought. Two questions particularly dominated the focus groups. First, how is the San Diego Jewish community going to address the needs of baby boomers wanting to age independently (and/or not being able to afford assisted living)? Second, and much aligned with this first question, was the need to think about independent living and transportation. For those individuals wanting to stay at home in their older years, what will San Diego s Jewish community do to deal with the limited transportation services available to this population? 3

4 The Needs of San Diego s Jewish Women and Girls While all of the issue areas outlined above impact women, the following themes arose repeatedly in conversations specifically about the needs of women and girl. 1. Employment Women and girls were often deemed most vulnerable to the employment challenges outlined above and along with broader population, would benefit from personalized and long-term support services. Single mothers and women facing issues of (re) entry into the job market were particularly called out as in need of support. One service provider (not in the business of providing support services around employment) reported receiving five to eight calls per month, primarily from women needing assistance around employment, including re-training, resume writing, and more. In addition to the employment support services identified above, needs specific to women included: - Short-term child care, particularly for women going through re-training/education programs in making career shifts. - Mentorship with women in professional positions of power for young women. - Job training programs for women recently out of university. 2. Support Services In the words of Jewish Family Services (JFS), Women define our agency. Over 70% of the requests for JFS services come from women, particularly around food assistance. Thus it appears that the quality of women s life experiences often defines the family experience, with women making many of the family s decisions. Thus the brunt of challenges faced in these decisions, particularly because of economic or domestic issues, falls on women s shoulders, and they are turning for support to JFS and others in disproportionately large numbers. Needs specific to women and girls around the need for support services included: - Life skills acquisition: widowed women are often forced to contend with quickly acquiring life skills (managing finances, etc.) and there is little support to help them grapple with these new situations. - Exiting unworkable marriages: despite the crisis-focused benefits offered by JFS Project Sarah and others, there remains a need for longer-term psychological counseling and support for women going through separations and divorces. - Managing the juggle: the juggle of the key roles many women face in the home as care givers, as parents, as single parents in particular and as those responsible for putting food on the table necessitates a greater offering of support services. - Caring across the generations: it is particularly important to note the unique challenge that many women face as they become part of the Sandwich Generation in which they have to care for ageing parents (either in their home or elsewhere) and their children. This stage of life offers a unique set of issues, and there are few programs in Jewish San Diego to support women navigating them. 4

5 - Sexuality awareness in safe spaces: girls continue to face unique challenges, particularly in their teen years. Issues around body image, independence and power continue to make the argument for programs for girls, beginning in fifth and sixth grades, in areas around sexuality and awareness. 3. Scholarships While the scholarship issues identified above affect both men and women, informants reported that the choices regarding a child s Jewish engagement often fall to women. As women often make the decisions around how their children spend their time, they are either choosing not to participate in costly Jewish activities or are falling victim to a reduction in scholarship allocations. This is about addressing a population not in crisis, but also not living in a state where all options are available to them. Ultimately, these decisions often make the difference between their children being engaged in Jewish community activities or not. 4. Leadership of Women in the Jewish Community The communal professionals focus group particularly noted a dearth of leadership and career advancing opportunities for Jewish young women in the community. This, they said, was further exacerbated by both an old boys network in the Jewish community and a limited vision for young women of career models to which to aspire throughout their lives. Add today s economic climate into this landscape, where young women are not seeing the types of career opportunities that may have been available to them years ago, and you have a population of young women in need of models of success. Several needs were identified around this weak leadership pipeline: - Limited systemization of opportunities across both established and emerging Jewish organizations to cultivate and support young women s leadership (e.g. Boards of Directors, committees, etc.). - Limited mentorship opportunities in a Jewish context with Jewish role models of successful career women. - Scarcity of women-focused networks of women helping women. 2 Multiple networks could be developed to target different types of women and different life stages from job seeking to networking, women seeking business collaborations to financing women in professional arenas to life skills support (such as financial planning). 2 There are many models off of which to build, including Athena 5

6 Recommendations The following recommendations are based on key themes that arose during the research. They do not represent unanimous views. General Recommendations for San Diego s Jewish Community Scholarship funding is not coordinated in the San Diego area and perhaps should not be. However, the increased demand for scholarships in all aspects of Jewish life does beckon a targeted conversation among key stakeholders as to how to align program financial support, maximize efficiency, and reach individuals who may not even be inquiring about scholarships because of lack of interest or ignorance of the opportunities. The Los Angeles JFS has an orthodox division that targets its services to Los Angeles orthodox community. It may be worthwhile for San Diego s JFS to explore this service offering, particularly around the counseling needs of the orthodox community. In a community that - because of geographic distance and lack of communal spaces - feels a profound loneliness, there is a need to think about targeted network building and community gatherings. Identifying specific populations that likely have been outside of the reach of the traditional Jewish community to bring together for shared socializing, mentoring, and support would both be extremely valued and also would likely reduce the binary effect of in or out produced by institutions that necessitate dues paying membership. Further information is needed to understand the needs of men in this community. The JCF may consider convening a discussion around the mapping of support services and peer networks for men and potential steps to support men in this economic environment. It would be beneficial to engage in proactive research to plan intentionally around baby boomers needs over the coming ten years, exploring programs and structures to support their healthy and productive aging. Recommendations Targeting San Diego Jewish Community s Women and Girls Further discussion and research is necessary to determine which types of employment services should be developed for women, including single parents, young adults in their 20 s, women re-entering the work force and others. This should include the question of one-on-one support services and linkages to non-jewish agencies. While highly praised, the services offered by JFS are not sufficiently publicized to Jewish agency directors and to the general population. While this affects both men and women, JFS reports that women comprise the majority of its clients. Additional research and planning to enhance institutional partnerships and referral services with JFS could assist more people in the Jewish community to access JFS broad array of service offerings. There are limited opportunities and models for young Jewish women to rise in the career pipeline within a Jewish context. It would be of value to explore programming for young women that both offers both mentoring and leadership opportunities in San Diego s Jewish community. 6

7 Relevant organizations should develop and/or purvey Jewish sexual education curricula for girls (and boys) which could be customized in synagogues. The community should leverage Rosh Chodesh programs, particularly in post-bat mitzvah years. This program is reported as successful and there is more that could be done to build onto it and to address age segments that fall outside of its reach. In Summary Overall, the informants in this research reported challenges to the general population and to women and girls that are similar to those reported in the past. Issues of identity, isolation and the need for a variety of support services continue to be real and to need addressing in the community. While things overall have not worsened economically over the past few years, the marginalized members of the community remain marginalized. Through better communication and resource sharing, the needs of the overall Jewish population of San Diego, particularly women and girls, will be improved. 7

8 Appendix A Informants Focus Group 1 1. Ana Kozlowski Jewish Community Center 2. Jennie Starr Tarbuton 3. Rabbi Michoel Peikes Torah High 4. Rabbi Simcha Weiser Soille Hebrew Day School Focus Group 2 1. Rabbi Josh Burrows Solel (Reform) 2. Rabbi Nadav Cain Neer Tamid (Reform) 3. Rabbi David Castiglione Adat Shalom (Reform) 4. Rabbi Len Rosenthal Tifereth Israel (Conservative) 5. Rabbi Michael Satz Beth Israel (Reform) Telephone Interviews 1. Keri Copans, San Diego Hillel 2. Chaim Heller, San Diego Jewish Academy 3. Rabbi Scott Meltzer, Congregation Ohr Shalom (Conservative) 8

9 Appendix B Questions for JWF Focus Groups with Agency Executives/Rabbis February 12, 2013 Overall Community What are the most pressing needs faced by those you serve in the current economic climate? How are these needs addressed by your agency/congregation or organizations to which you refer people? [Probe: access and availability of social and support services, Jewish engagement and connection, and other needs that fall outside of these categories] Which needs of Jewish community members remain unaddressed in the current landscape? If you could imagine programs or services that don t currently exist but would make a significant impact on these populations and would address these needs, what might they be? What one piece of information about the needs of those in the Jewish community do you need the Jewish Community Foundation to know? Jewish Women and Girls What are the most pressing needs faced by Jewish women and girls served by your agency/congregation? How are the needs of Jewish women and girls addressed by your agency/congregation or organizations to which you refer these populations? [Probe: access and availability of social and support services, Jewish engagement and connection, and other needs that fall outside of these categories] Which needs of Jewish women and girls remain unaddressed in the current landscape? If you could imagine programs or services that don t currently exist but would make a significant impact on Jewish women and girls and would address these needs, what might they be? What one piece of information about the needs of Jewish women and girls in San Diego do you need the Jewish Women s Foundation to know? 9

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