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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 8, 2009 OU realigns to tackle recession Orthodox Union More than 700 people attended an Orthodox Union-run expo in New York City on April26 that showcased social service organizations and other projects to help deal with the recession. By Jacob Berkman NEW YORK (JTA)--Fred Goldberg says he saw the writing on the wall late last yearwhen the small computer company heworked for in New York instituted a 20 percent pay cut. It wasn't long afterward that the 52-year-old informa- tion technology consultant from the Midwood section of Brooklyn was laid off. "It's not good. People are not hiring," Goldberg said April 26 while standing in line to speak with represen- tatives for a job-placement program at Lander College in Manhattan. Goldberg was one of more than 700 people to show up for the expo run by the Orthodox Union, where the out-of-work and underemployed could learn about services available to them through the Jewish community. Goldberg had been laid off before, in 2001 after the attacks of 9/11 and the burst of the high-tech bubble. This time, he said, it feels worse-- harder. "It's not just high-tech be- ing hit this time, it's across the board," he said, noting that many of his friends and neighbors are in the same situation. Making matters worse, Goldberg's wife, Edie, who stood next to him in line, has been unable to find work as a secretary since losing her job in 2008. "I've been looking for a job for over a year,,' she said. "We're not in the comfort zone anymore. We're still paying rent and still paying bills." The OU is trying to help people like the Goldbergs. Dozens of organizations, most of which cater to the Orthodox, sent representa- tives to the Manhattan expo to offer counseling on services such as debt consolidation and interest-free loans, as well as health and welfare issues. The community services expo was one of a string of similar events the OU has run in recent months, part of what organizational officials are calling a realignment to help the Orthodox community pull through the recession. "We are not trying to solve it becausewe can't," Steven Sav- itsky, the OU's president, told JTA in a phone interview April 27. "But we know that people are hurting. We understand it has a tremendous effect on individuals and families, and as it trickles down to the schools, the synagogues and the rest of the community, we are trying to find ways--any way we can--to deal with this. The best way to help is to find people jobs." While other social service organizations may have bud- get crunches, the OU is in position to help because of the vast resources pouring in from the proceeds from its kashrut certification division. The OU waded into the employment matchmaking business about 2 1/2 years ago with a blog-like Web site where employers could post jobs and job seekers could post resumes, said Michael Rosner, director of the OU's job board. The recession has forced the OU to reallocate man- power and funds to beef up its social services department, adding and reassigning five or six employees, according to Savitsky. Before the economic down- turn, the job board hosted 50 to 70 resumes at a given time. Now there are more than 600 online, Rosner said. About 8 percent of the posted jobs get filled through the organization's Web site, OU officials said. The organization also has shifted its programming to address the economic down- turn. Until recently, the OU's seminars focused on dating and family life. Now, nearly all are related to the economy, from employment workshops to a task force designed to address what has become a tuition crisis in the day school system. The OU also is working with local Orthodox com- munities-unemployment is as high as 10 percent there, the OU says--to help local organizations collaborate to create social service networks that assist in dealing with the crisis. "Our real goal is basically to become an online or a virtual social service organization," Rosner said. "We want to become the people you know you can turn to in times of crisis, and all of the social services we do outside of my department are designed to do that. We want to be the address people turn to--and not only for the Orthodox community." Rosner estimated that of the hundreds in attendance April 26, about 200 were not Jewish. Neither Savitsky nor Ros- ner would reveal how much is being spent on the new services, calling it "propri- etary information." The OU, though it is a nonprofit, is not required to make its tax forms public because it is a religious institution. But, Savitsky said, "every penny we get goes to the Jewish community and into services and programs, and at the end of the year we have nothing left." At the expo, the employ- ment line stretched the lon- gest. The second longest was at the Hebrew Free Loan Society in New York, which gives out roughly $1 million in no-interest loans each month to struggling Jews. "A year-and-a-half ago, I'd say 70 percent of our borrow- ers were Russian immigrants looking for $5,000 to fix up their apartment," said Moish Soloway, the assistant ex- ecutive director of the loan society. "Now we are seeing a lot of situations where people are dealingwith debt based on unemployment." Those he met that Sunday reported huge credit card debt--up to $90,000 in some cases--incurred while un- employed. Community officials say expenses are much higher in Orthodox households than non-Orthodox ones: Kosher food can cost 30 to 40 percent -_ more than non-kosher food, day school tuition costs five figures per child each year and synagogue membership is expensive. But it might be that very infrastructure that could help the Orthodox pull through this meltdown: While expen- sive, these practices foster close-knit communities that support distressed members. "There is a sense of com- munity," Savitsky said. "Here it's different when a neighbor loses a job and you see them every day. We live together in close proximity, and we share where they are." By Stewart Ain New York Jewish Week NEWYORK--The develop- er ofa Dix Hills, Long Island, condominium complex who 'No-mezuzah' policy is shown the door last Monday ordered resi- dents to remove all outdoor religious displays including wreaths and mezuzahs backed down the next day and said he would allow the "k: .  ..... !( :: : > All your graphic desigr and photograpry needs. Book your free consultation today! located in Lake Mary 40/833-8960 : ,:I:.: :(.)k.," !itS: :> *. :-  Panic! ..... s ................ Popups! i !iliSi Adult! T Emergencies No Extra Charge! Don't Get Mad Get Hell Jerrold SchtlT I 407.6 9.844 HANDYMAN SERVICE Handy man and General Maintenance Air Conditioning Electrical Plumbing Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 residents to decide their own rules. "I want a committee of homeowners to make some recommendations and then I will have a meeting of all the homeowners so they can discuss it and come up with a reasonable accommodation for everybody," said Law- rence Gresser, the developer. Gresser said that despite last Monday's letter threatening to fine all violators $50 if they did not remove outdoor displays within three days, no fines would be levied. "We're not going to fine anybody for anything," he said, adding that all previous fines for this violation have been waived. Patti Werner, 55, moved into the 73-unit senior cit- izens' gated community known as Stone Ridge Estates March 6 and was slapped with a $50 fine April 8 when she refused to remove the mezuzah on her front door post. She said she had been told that she could keep the mezuzah displayed provided she bought a storm door. "I refused." she said. "I have no need for [the door]; they want you to hide it. I'm not hiding it. I'm proud of it." The Dix Hills flap is just the latest in a series of similar controver- sies that have developed in recent years throughout the country. Gresser said he heard there is now a similar incident elsewhere in Suffolk County. A similar case last year in Fort Lauderdale was resolved when a Jewish homeowner filed suit and the condomin- ium backed down. Both the city of Chicago and the State of Illinois have passed laws to permit the display of me- zuzahs, but a federal appeal court is now reviewing such laws. Werner confessed to initially removing the mezu- zah when she first received a letter from Gresser ordering it removed. "But I got upset and sick to my stomach, so I put it back up," she said. A Reform Jew, Werner said she bought the mezuzah many years ago at Temple Judea of Manhasset, L.I., and that it had adorned her former home in Roslyn, L.I. "It's tarnished, but I got new mezuzahs for the inside of my house," she said. "I have always had mezuzahs. When my son moved into his apartment in New York, I gave him a mezuzah from my great aunt. He put it up and nobody is harassing him." "I'm just a nice person who wanted a nice place where I could feel safe and secure and that I could call home," Werner added. Before last Tuesday's decision to allow the residents to de- cide for themselves whether to change the development's bylaws that prohibit all out- door signs or statuary, Rabbi Howard Buechler, spiritual leader of the Dix Hills Jewish Center, called the developers' actions an "act of folly." "I'm not accusing the manage- ment agents of being anti- Semitic, but they are acting as moral midgets and creating an odious atmosphere," he fumed. "They have to realize that their action is closing the door to Jews buying in this complex and to Christians who want to put up wreaths for the holidays," he said. "In America we are free to practice our faith, and these agents have gone down the path of folly and foolishness." Susan Berland, a member of the Huntington, L.I., Town Board, said she was called by Werne r and had been "trying todo things in an unofficial capacity because I don't think the town has jurisdiction to regulate what goes on in pri- vate condominium develop- ments." She pointed out that the office of the state attorney general approved the condo- minium's bylaws that prohibit any signs, advertisements or statuary on the exterior of any condominium unit. "The idea is to have uniformity on the outside of the property," Berland explained, adding that the bylaws are one thing and the "reality is another." "When you put individu- als into their homes, they want to decorate as they see fit," she said. "The problem with banning everything is that everyone in the com- munity suffers. Nobody wants to be deprived of being able to express their individuality, whether through religious items or non-religious trin- kets that they want to put on the outside of their front door." In her quest to fight the $50 fine, Werner reached out to lawmakers and others for help--even contacting a lawyer to weigh legal options. Joel Levy of the New York of- rice of the Anti-Defamation League, said his office too heard from Werner and that he was "very concerned" about her predicament. "It's very troubling," he said. "She should definitely be allowed to display the mezuzah." Levy said he had heard that other residents had put up wreaths and had not been bothered, which he said would smack of discrimination. But Bet- land said all of the wreaths were covered by a storm door except one that went up in re- sponse to Werner's mezuzah. Frank Petrone, the super- visor of Huntington, said he found the bylaws prohibiting outdoor displays "preposter- ous." "Certainly I have a right to put a wreath on my door," he said. "And I don't think many people can see a me- zuzah from the driveway, let alone from 10 feet way." For this to now cause a division in the development, Petrone said, was wrong and he vol- unteered to help mediate the situation. "I'm willing to have a delegation of individual [owners] and the builder and the developer come to my office and we will tailor a set of standards that would be acceptable to most people," he said. Petrone said it could be done with "mutual respect" and to permit "people's di- versity" of expression. "I look forward to them getting in contact with me so we can wake up people's sensitivities or create them," he said. Gresser said he did not rule out accepting Petrone's offer but first preferred to see if the residents could resolve the issue themselves. "They are all ex-homeowners who had their homes of 30 or 40 years, and sometimes it's a little difficult to get [the rules of] a condo community," he said. "At this point I hope and expect that a reasonable solution will come out of this from the homeowners. It is their community and they have to live there." Reprinted with permission from the New York Jewish Week,