Jewish Relief Agency (JRA)
On the Front Lines of Fighting Hunger
In the summer of 2000, I (Marc Erlbaum, co-founder) told Rabbi Menachem Schmidt that I had a few friends who might be interested in doing a relief mission to help poor Jews overseas. He said “shnook” (or some similar and less repeatable Yiddish word), “what about all the poor Jews right here in Philadelphia?”
So, we identified 19 Russian-speaking families who needed help. We rented a U-Haul truck, loaded it up with food from BJ’s, and made our first deliveries in September of that year. By the second month, word had spread, and we had about 37 homes to deliver to. So I called my brother and my cousin and a few friends, and 8 of us got it done. By month 3, there were about 15 volunteers and 50 some recipients, and we put a note in each box in English and Russian that said if you know anyone else who needs food, have them call us. Within 3 days, we had received nearly 1,000 calls.
Since then, we have outgrown 2 warehouses, we’ve grown from serving 19 families to over 3,200 households, and our volunteer corps has swelled from those 3 initial volunteers to between 500 and 1,000 every month. A lot of hard work has gone into that growth – we have a terrific staff now and a very dedicated board and yellow-capper team – but the key ingredient is our volunteers. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to get all of this done – if we had to pay for packing and deliveries, we’d be broke and out of business.
Note: The above descriptive information came from the organization's Our Story page.
In The News
- Philadelphia-Area Social Service Agencies See Increased Need for Food, Mental Health Resources, Jewish Exponent, October 22, 2020.
- Jewish Relief Agency Marks Milestone While Helping The Hungry, CBS-3, November 15, 2015.