NECHAMA. The word means “comfort.” Help those who need it find it.

I went back the office yesterday for the first time since my surgery, so the timing is just right…
I usually talk about my job in pretty vague terms here, but today is different. Today I am taking you where we’ve never gone before on this blog – to my workplace. I promise I won’t make a habit of dragging you there with me, but it’s for a special project, and we need your help!

The Los Angeles social-services agency that employs me as Controller is in a competition to get funding for a new program. The Next Big Jewish Idea is being sought by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which wants to celebrate its Centennial by finding and funding an innovative program that will strengthen and benefit the greater Los Angeles Jewish community. And because it is the 21st century, the choice will be made with the help of social media and online voting. You need not be Jewish or from Los Angeles to vote in the competition!

Aviva Family and Children’s Services – founded in 1915 as the Hamburger Home – is just a few years away from its own centennial, and while it provides needed assistance – such as mental-health services, group home and foster care, and after-school programs – throughout the region, its historical ties to the local Jewish community run deep.

Our “Big Jewish Idea” is Nechamaa Hebrew name meaning “comfort”. In Los Angeles, the Jewish population is spread out, separated into various denominations, and lacks a single point where any Jew can come or call for whatever assistance they need. Nechama will be that point – a source of comfort. Nechama will be a vehicle to connect all the members of the Los Angeles Jewish Community to one another by providing a single stop for assistance and/or referrals to private and governmental agencies in the greater Los Angeles area.

Our proposal states that

Nechama is designed to provide a comprehensive information and referral source with a specific focus on and outreach primarily to the Jewish Community. Nechama will maintain direct communication with sectarian, non-sectarian and public entities and create a huge base for referrals. While there are many information and referral programs throughout Los Angeles, often they are fragmented, not comprehensive in their knowledge of the Jewish community or not staffed by live, specially trained responders.

Nechama’s staff members and volunteers familiar with the Los Angeles Jewish community will provide free live information and referral services during normal business hours. Provision will be made for providing information in crisis or emergency situations at night and on the weekends. In addition, an internet site will be maintained which will contain information which will be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Nechama staff will collect and disseminate information about everything that is important to the Jewish community that will include, but is not limited to:

  • social services
  • mental health and medical assistance for children, adolescents, families, seniors, and the disabled
  • monitoring of K-12 and post-secondary educational or vocational opportunities
  • job training and employment opportunities
  • financial assistance resources

We will also provide referrals for:

  • legal assistance
  • interpreters
  • those seeking assistance with religious or spiritual matters

Nechama will make referrals to both public and private sources of assistance that provide no cost, low-cost or fee for service programs. While Nechama’s focus is on the Jewish community, anyone within our County’s diverse population who contacts the project will be served.

Nechama will be an excellent resource for the entire Los Angeles area, regardless of race, creed, or color. Will you help Aviva make it a reality? As I said, you needn’t be Jewish or live in SoCal to vote – we need all the support we can get – but you do need to visit our Big Idea page at The Next Big Jewish Idea! You can submit your vote there, and use the Twitter and Facebook buttons to help spread the word. Voting in this round will be open until March 31 If we make it to the final six Big Ideas, I will take you to work one more time for the last round of voting!

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