Jewish Relief Agency
The Jewish Relief Agency (JRA) is a charitable organization, a project of Lubavitch House in Philadelphia (but an independent 501(c)3), whose aim is to identify and feed needy Jewish clients in the Greater Philadelphia region. Almost 57,000 Jews, representing nearly a quarter of the Jewish population in the five counties of Greater Philadelphia, live in poor or lower-income households. Many of these disadvantaged Jews are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, whose difficulties with learning English and unfamiliarity with the established agency structure have left them outside the existing network of Jewish aid.
In an attempt to fill this gap, the Agency was founded in September 2000 by Marc Erlbaum and Rabbi Menachem Schmidt. Beginning with three volunteers serving 19 families, the Jewish Relief Agency has since grown to become a major volunteer-driven organization and the largest hunger relief agency in the Philadelphia Jewish community. To date, over 15,000 volunteers have participated, and an average of 1,000 volunteers participate monthly to deliver relief packages to over 3,000 needy households.
A wide range of organizations have participated in the monthly food distributions, including Jewish camps, local branches of Hillel, synagogues, colleges, schools, companies, and service organizations.
To answer the need from the community for more than just food assistance, JRA launched a new program in 2011 coined JRAid. JRAid connects volunteers directly with opportunities to help struggling families based on the volunteer's own personal preferences. Working in partnership with Federation Housing, Inc. and JEVS Human Services, JRAid is also able to provide minor home repairs and home modifications free of charge to households which could not otherwise afford them.
Although targeting a Jewish audience, JRA distributes food and charity to any individual in need.
JRA has recently begun opening satellite programs in other cities. In addition to Philadelphia, current programs operate monthly in Chicago, Greenwich, Pittsburgh, Morristown NJ, and Cherry Hill NJ.