Sanford Akselrad oral history interview, 2014 October 29. OH-02174. [Audio recording]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada. http://n2t.net/ark:/62930/d1qn61x54
Standardized Rights Statement
Talk a bit about the program part of your work. Well, so the first thing is to build the basic institution. So a sisterhood, a men's club, youth groups; those are your core things. Then you had to build your committees. So you want to get involved in social justice things. I had a Hesed Committee, which was helping to visit people who are sick. I would have just different committees for things. Then as we grew we hired a program director, which is a position I still have. And then when I would think of things, then the program director could kind of do a lot of the work to make them realized. So I don't know. There's too many programs to go over. But I will tell you about one in particular that I was very, very proud of and I received an award for. It was again kind of a little light bulb. It was during the recession. So during the recession someone came to me looking for work. It happens from time to time. I never was successful honestly. They'd say, ?Rabbi, I need help finding work.? How am I going to help them find work? Honestly, I don't really know them. So what am I going to do? But it's kind of sad because the Jewish community professes to care about its own and I could tell we really weren't doing a good job. So I was involved at that time with Jewish Family Services as my volunteer work and I went on their website because they said they have a jobs program and it was clear to me they didn't. I always like to challenge things. You tell me this and I'll check it out. So I go on the website; it was called Avodah. I said, ?Well, no one knows what the word avodah means.? That's Hebrew for work. Then they had no jobs listed. So that's not a jobs program. And they had no one on staff that was really in charge of it. So I came up with a very different idea and it really worked good. I came up with this idea of identifying jobs that existed in matching them up with Jewish people looking for them. So there's always jobs, but the problem is an employer would be flooded with resumes in a recession. So what I would do is if you were an employer and you were Jewish, I'd say, ?Well, if I find someone who's Jewish, would you at least look at their resume?? And they said, ?Okay.? So anyway, we ended up...I hired someone who was in real estate because she was very bright and outgoing and she could schmooze the owners of companies; that was one of her big strengths. Had no experience at all in employment. She was a go getter and I got funding for it. It was one of the largest grants ever from the Jewish Federation. So it became known as Project Ezra. Ezra was a prophet and he helped the Jewish people in a time of sorrow. Ezra is also a Hebrew word meaning help. So it was a play on words. So the first part was Jewish vocational services. The second was I realized that the amount of money they would give people who were unemployed was like four hundred dollars, Jewish Family Services, and that wasn't enough because the people who were losing jobs were middle class. So middle class people...four hundred dollars can't do anything. So they had to realize your clientele was different. And so I needed that up because it would need to be one to fifteen hundred dollars so that they could stabilize and then go to family members or dig into their savings. But it takes time to do that physically and emotionally. Now we have to dig into our 401K's or ask mom and dad for help. So that was another big change. Over the span of about three years we helped over six hundred people find work in the recession. Wow. So it was a very successful and people called me from all over the country, how I did it. And then eventually they took the head of Project Ezra and they promoted her to be head of the agency. She headed the agency for a while. It was Christina Primack. So whether that was a good fit or not, who knows? But unfortunately, once they took her away from Project Ezra, then it kind of dwindled and they no longer have it in the same way. Maybe the need is not as great. But they really outsource it to other organizations. It's too bad, I think.