Who we are. Home to several hundred families, the Kemp Mill Jewish community in Washington, DC is not immune to downturns in the economy. Many of us know people in the area who have lost jobs, are severely underemployed, or whose jobs are threatened. College graduates are also having a difficult time getting work in their occupations. The rabbinic and lay leadership of the area's three shuls, Young Israel Shomrai Emunah, Kemp Mill Synagogue, and Silver Spring Jewish Center, have enthusiastically endorsed the creation of a joint community support program to address these needs, the Kemp Mill Employment Assistance Initiative.
We are aware of similar efforts to develop safety nets for community members and would like to learn about successful practices to improve how and what we do. Like our counterparts elsewhere we are motivated by the Torah injunction to help our brethren. "If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him . . . so that he can live with you." (Vayikra, 25:35).
How it works. The program was launched on June 22, in a coordinated manner throughout the community. A key aspect of the program is an electronic database that job seekers can use to network with shul members who could advise, recommend, and provide further contacts. The database relies on members filling out an Employment Assistance Form.
The database, accessible at www.JobAssist.org, is secure and private (access password required) and all information will be kept in full confidence. In addition, once networking information is included in the database, members in need of job networking are contacted directly via "blind email" without knowing the identity of those who wish to help. Job providers may respond and offer help where appropriate.
An Employment Assistance Committee, representing the three community shuls plays a key part in making referrals to services offered to Kemp Mill members:
You may contact the following people if you have questions about the Kemp Mill Employment Initiative and JobAssist.org.
When fully operational, the program will offer four types of assistance:
A. Online networking A confidential electronic database will draw on the three Kemp Mill area shuls' diversified workforce to identify jobs and help people secure them. The database will consist of information provided by shul members who fill out the "Employment Assistance Form. All working-age shul members -- regardless of their job status -- are encouraged to complete and submit the form, which identifies individuals who can help with contacts, resume preparation and interview techniques, and who can also provide other forms of support -- depending on their expertise -- such as direct job counseling and psychological assistance. In the interests of strict privacy, the database is secured; a password is required for job seekers to enter the database and network directly with appropriate members. The database can be found at www.JobAssist.org or through a newly created "employment section" in each shul's Web site
B. Job Seekers Club Looking for some quality "face time" with other job seekers? This is the place to find it - a group of Kemp Mill residents that meets regularly to compare notes on the hunt for employment, provide emotional support for each other, hear from experts, and benefit from other services as needed. "It's a work in progress," says Job Club coordinator Gail Sanders, a licensed clinical social worker. "We want to see who shows up and what their needs are." Mrs. Sanders says the Job Seekers Club may be modeled after a job seekers' support group in Teaneck, N.J., whose invited speakers include job recruiters, financial planners, and career counselors.
C. Direct Job Placement Individuals with extensive business contacts work directly with individual job seekers to help them find work. The Employment Assistance Committee arranges shiduchim will be arranged by members of the Employment Assistance Committee, consisting of two individuals from each of the participating shuls. Committee members are pledged to maintain the confidentiality of those seeking assistance by agreeing to obtain their consent before directing them to others in the community.
D. Indirect Job Placement This type of support would involve four services available at www.JobAssist.org:
1. Database of local full-time jobs. Listings to be provided by shul members who learn of new job openings in their places of employment or elsewhere. The database is divided into employment categories.
2. Database of freelance service providers. A listing of workers and a description of services they offer. Examples: Driving to or from the airport or train station, tutoring, bar mitzvah instruction, gardening, bookkeeping/accounting, day care or babysitting.
3. Online list of employment Web sites. Links are posted to reliable Jewish and generic jobs-related information clearinghouses, such as Monster.
4. Database of resumes. Interested members can post their resumes
(anonymity optional), grouped by employment categories.
E. Guidance The objective of these activities is to help unemployed or underemployed individuals re-enter the work force through personal guidance, encouragement, and practical assistance as follows:
1. Direct support/guidance. Social workers, psychologists, and other relevant members of the three Kemp Mill area shuls discuss employment problems with job seekers and direct them to the appropriate resources, all without charge.
2. Job-search coaching. Free assistance by Kemp Mill professionals (including attorneys and human resource specialists) with resume-writing and job-interview techniques. The Jewish Social Services Agency (JSSA) will be consulted when appropriate.
3. Career reassessment. Those seeking career reassessment may be directed to JSSA for job-aptitude testing and other services. The role of the Kemp Mill Employment Assistance Initiative will probably be limited to arranging for the JSSA testing and follow-up.
Questions about the JobAssist.org website may also be sent to email@example.com.