Photos: Meeting of Rabbonim in Brooklyn Addresses Parnassah Crisis

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parnassah-meeting-5[Photos below.] The Emergency Parnassah Initiative has experienced incredible siyata diShmaya in its effort to address unemployment, with over 500 job placements and 30 businesses opened in its 19 months of operation. However, there are over 2,000 people in the EPIdatabase still looking for jobs. The very economic survival of our community is at stake.

To address this pressing issue, over seventy Brooklyn rabbonim and askonim gathered on Thursday night to discuss the plight of the unemployed. We all know their stories, but who can fathom the lives behind the title “unemployed” – the out-of-work husband refusing to show his face in shul or the father putting up an elaborate scheme so that his children should not realize that he has no work. The destruction to shalom bayis is indescribable.

“The purpose of this gathering,” said the Novominsker Rebbe, speaking in the hall of the Burstyner Bais Medrash in Boro Park, “is that now is the time for the broader community to feel the responsibility to provide jobs for the unemployed.” Frum business-owners should feel a responsibility to hire from within the community, and anyone who knows of a job opening should contact EPI to let them know of the availability.

Reuven Wolf, one of the founders of EPI and chairman of Thursday’s gathering, said, “Our goal tonight is to change the mindset of the frum Jewish community about hiring Jewish workers.”

Rav Binyomin Eisenberg said, “When asking information for shidduchim, instead of asking if they eat on china dishes on Shabbos, we should ask whether they hire Yidden. That should be the barometer of what kind of Yidden they are.”

The reasons discussed at Thursday night’s meeting as to why some are reluctant to hire Yidden are varied. The alternative is seemingly cheaper. However, many of today’s job-seekers are so desperate that they will work for the same price. And if we have to pay them more, they are worth every penny, says Mr. Wolf.

“I do business with one of the largest real estate companies in the country, which is managed by a traditional Jew,” Mr. Wolf related. “I told him, ‘Jeff, you have an opportunity to do the greatest form of tzedakah: hire Yidden whenever possible.’ Sure enough, now we have chassidishe yungeleit sitting in Fifth Avenue offices. The owner of the company, with whom I speak in French, told me, ‘Apporte moi plus de chassidim, Reuven – Bring me more chassidim. They are smart, capable, and eager to get the job done, even if it means staying in the office until 10 o’clock at night!'”

Often, employers are nervous about all the Erev Shabbos, Erev Yom Tov and maternity leaves that women in the frum community require. That need not be such a concern. Our Bais Yaakovs produce such a fantastic product in terms of skills, attitude and middos, that when one girl is out, the others come in earlier and leave later to cover for her and be sure the work gets done.

Another worry some have is that a Jewish worker will learn the business and become one’s competitor. To become a competitor, this worker must be extremely accomplished and capable. If he is that good, he’s probably worth the extra salary and bonuses to make it worth his while to stay with the company.

Yet a different concern people raise is that it’s hard to fire a Yid. EPI is ready to shoulder this burden. Any employee hired through EPI comes with an assurance that EPI will take care of the firing if the need arises. EPI will then try to find the employee another job.

At Thursday night’s meeting, Rabbi Dovid Orlewsky stated, “It’s imperative for our baalei batim to hear from people such as Mr. Wolf, and other successful businessmen, of the value gained by hiring from within our community. Businessmen could hear from rabbonim…but they must hear from fellow businessmen that you don’t lose by hiring a Jew.”

Many successful business-owners have asserted numerous times that they attribute their success to the fact that they hire Yidden. Giving parnassah to other Yidden makes the entire business a “cheftzah shel mitzvah, with all the accompanying brachos. The highest level of tzedakah is to give parnassah to a fellow Yid.

EPI’s current goal is to set up a special “parnassah gabbai” in every shul for people to turn to if they need a job or know of an employment opportunity. This gabbai will serve as a liaison to enable EPI to assist and network in every shul.

Dovid Hess, of Far Rockaway, attended the meeting Thursday night. About a year ago, he felt his world coming to an end when he lost his job in a luminance company.

“I was shattered. I didn’t have a chiyus,” he says. “I saw an article about EPI and I slowly felt my chiyus coming back.” The article discussed different forms of aid that EPI provides, including matching loans of up to $25,000 for start-ups and help in finding a job.

Mr. Hess called EPI and told Mr. Zisha Novoseller, EPI’s executive director, about an idea he had for making glow-in-the-dark raincoats. Yidden typically dress in a conservative black, and Mr. Hess cited figures of as many as fifty Yidden killed yearly by drivers who were unable to see them. He felt that it was an idea that could give him a livelihood.

“The problem,” said Mr. Hess, “was lack of capital and a business plan.”

He got them both from EPI. He was paired with a mentor, who guided him for as much time as he needed until his business took off.

Mr. Hess came to the meeting to share the results of that relief. He now heads Shmirawear, a Far Rockaway-based company worth $1 million. He employs four people and is looking to double his staff.

The EPI mentor “gave me hour after hour after hour,” he said. “I could ask him anything I wanted. I have hakoras hatov to EPI for giving me my life back.”

According to Mr. Novoseller, the business advice, mentoring and preparation for job interviews are even more in demand than the loans. “Approximately half of the incoming calls at EPI are from people saying, ‘I don’t need the loan, I need the advice.’ Basically, EPI is a one-stop shop for a person seeking a job. EPI will help him take the right courses, build a résumé, and help him secure and ace an interview.”

“EPI is not affiliated with any one organization,” says Mr. Novoseller. “We are affiliated with all of them. We work on a daily basis with PCS of Agudas Yisroel and the OU Job Board. We all share the same goal.”

Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz told the assembled rabbonim at Thursday’s meeting that when a person loses his job and must rely on others, it can be considered similar to death. As the Skverer Rebbe told Mr. Novoseller, “EPI didn’t help 506 people. EPI saved 506 families.”

EPI can be reached at 212.612.0202 or at

See below for photos of the meeting:

{Yossi Newscenter}


  1. Unbelievable. Kol Hakavod and a tremendous “y’yasher” to all those involved in EPI. If anyone knows if they deal with Eretz Yisroel, or are interested in creating an offshoot, I would be very interested in hearing about it.

  2. Begining of paragrph 5 there is a small typo,
    it is supposed to say Rav Eisenberger Shlita,
    many make this mistake of Eisenberg.

  3. I feel that a legitimate aspect of the parnossa problem is related to the exorbitant costs of living in the tri-state area. It costs 200K/year to pay your bills if you live in Monsey, Brooklyn, Queens, etc. This is why I live out of town. Cost of living is 30-40% lower. Maybe part of the hishtadlus of making a parnossa should include finding more affordable ways to live, not merely making as much as you can. I have a hard time feeling bad when I meet my friends and family tell me about how hard it is to make it in NY/NJ. I left a few years ago, never looked back and my peace of mind has increased drastically.

  4. Thank you for the aarayus, concern and dedication to help yidden find jobs. Similar to what goes on in Israel, where employers/people will hire Arabs as cheap labor rather than YEHUDIM.

  5. I think that even simchas should be more simple. The people make it happy.
    I heard once that a Rebbe told a new kallah that she should make her l’chaim low cost financial (this was about 30 years ago!) and she said fine, but then she asked “what should I tell people when they see its simple?” and this Rebbe said “tell them that you gave it to tzedakah.
    I promise you that you won’t remember details even 6 months later if there was sushi and other even more expensive treats or not.
    But you might remember the feeling of simcha, which doesnt cost anything. Its the guests on that one.

  6. This is very encouraging. A wonderful service and a mitzvah! I hope that more people will participate. Lack of parnassah can put a strain on a marriage and family and can contribute to a lack of shalom bayit.

  7. I think we got the message re the simchas. But in addition to lavish smorgs, and l’chaims outside the home (and bar mitzvahs that are chasunas) and the gifts, etc. there are other issues, like support…

  8. Hiring Jewish/frum employees and reducing lavish spending are parts of the equation, definitely to be considered. But, the elephant that might not have been in the room at this asifah, is how to get young people the training, education, and skills which will allow them to compete for the decently paying professional jobs of today and tomorrow.

  9. As Director of the OU Job Board I have the great Z’chus working closely with EPI. This Asifah was so dramtic and heartening to see so many from such a wide spectrum join in. We look forward to better and bigger things from EPI and we appreciate the naches of being part of this great event

    Chazak Ubaruch

  10. My usual uber-cynicism fades when I hear about things like this. Keep up the great work and may Hashem bless EPI, its mentors and participants with shefa, bracha and hatzlacha.


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