Program Mobilizes Against Area Poverty


Community Against Poverty was the theme of a March 30 event organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, which was attended by over 150 people to take part in the first ever interfaith, interracial partnership focused on alleviating poverty in St. Louis through volunteerism. The highly worthwhile Community Against Poverty (CAP) Program was convened by the JCRC and co-sponsored by Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of St. Louis; the Clergy Coalition; Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls; the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis; the Jewish Community Center;; Jewish Family & Children’s Service; Lutheran Family & Children’s Services; Missouri Association for Social Welfare; the National Council of Jewish Women, St. Louis Section, and the Presbytery of Giddings Lovejoy. The St. Louis Jewish Light was represented at the event and is pleased to warmly endorse its goals to alleviate poverty and its consequences in our community.

It was a tremendous accomplishment to bring together such a diverse group of interfaith, interracial and social welfare organizations in a common quest to alleviate the scourge of poverty in Greater St. Louis. Some people may not realize that poverty is a fact of life for many Americans, including those within our own Jewish community. Contrary to the pervasive belief that the American Jewish community is “affluent,” there are, in fact, thousands of Jewish families and individuals who depend upon the Jewish Food Pantry for their food, and the services of the Jewish Family & Children’s Service and other agencies to help them deal with the stresses of living in poverty.

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Some three-quarters of all Americans between the ages of 20 and 75 will at some point experience a year in poverty or near poverty, and two-thirds of Americans between the ages of 20 and 65 will at some point use a welfare program, such as food stamps. Roughly one-fifth of our total population is either in poverty or precariously close to falling into poverty at any point in time, according to the JCRC. It may come as a surprise that the United States of America in 2008 has one of the highest rates of poverty in the industrialized world. All of these problems have been made more serious in the midst of the increasingly troubled American economy with substantial job losses, local companies going out of business or downsizing and rising costs of gasoline, food and other essentials.

Even among those Americans, including St. Louisans who are fortunate not to face poverty, all of us suffer the costs associated with poverty in our nation and community. Whether it be having to pay higher insurance premiums to cover the cost of emergency rooms for those who have no health insurance, or having our taxes increasingly going up to support construction of prisons to house those who have turned to crime as a result of poverty, the reality of poverty affects all of us. It is truly perplexing that in a country with such abundant wealth (even during the current hard times), there continues to be such high rates of poverty and near poverty — many decades after the promising War on Poverty was announced by former President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The St. Louis Jewish Light commends the JCRC for organizing the Community Against Poverty initiative, which brings attention to the problem of poverty, and provides us a way to connect to organizations needing volunteers to alleviate poverty.

We urge our readers to volunteer for programs which target the effects of poverty, to contribute to the Jewish Food Pantry and to our Jewish Federation of St. Louis Campaign, which also provides essential funds to JF &CS and other agencies enlisted in the CAP coalition to combat poverty. We simply must continue to focus on the problem of poverty and take meaningful actions, personally and as a community, in cooperation with other segments of the total community to reduce poverty through both advocacy and service. As the Talmud reminds us, “We cannot complete the work, but neither are we free to desist from it.”

We can add, “And if not now, when?”