Volunteers needed for day of helping the homeless

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Jewish Volunteer Day with Project Homeless Connect, an annual all-day event sponsored by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council, is Wednesday, Dec. 12 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.

More than 100 members of the local Jewish community are expected to volunteer in assisting San Francisco’s homeless population from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Hundreds of homeless will receive dental and vision exams, haircuts, legal advice, job referrals, child care assistance and more. Begun by former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Project Homeless Connect operates in close collaboration with the city’s Department of Public Health, community nonprofits, corporate sponsors and individuals to provide the homeless population with a “one-stop shop” for health and human services.

“Direct service shortens the distance between ‘us and them,’ and that is really powerful,” noted Wendy Rothenberg, director of development at Jewish Vocational Service, one of the agencies involved in the day. “We can all watch the news or read, but it’s not the same. We’re one community, and direct service allows many of us to be reminded that it could be us as much as it could be anyone else, but we’re here to help each other.”

Project Homeless Connect events run throughout the year, and 2012 marks the sixth straight year the Jewish community is pitching in with its volunteer day.

“It’s a great way for me to put my Jewish values in action,” noted Debbie Berkowitz, director of Young Adult Philanthropy at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, another participating agency. “It is the perfect combination of gemilut chasadim, acts of kindness, and tzedek tirdof, the pursuit of justice, to bring together our community to help effectively serve vulnerable populations in a really impactful way.”

 The event begins at 8 a.m. with a lesson about Jewish service from Rabbi Peretz Wolf Prusan, followed by a kickoff rally led by Rabbi Doug Kahn, the JCRC’s executive director.

Volunteers are being sought, and people need not sign up for the entire day. Hourly and half-day shifts are available. Visit www.surveymonkey.com/s/JewishVolunteerDayRSVP or www.jcrc.org. For information, contact Laura Rumpf of JVS at (415) 977-7418 or [email protected].

Jewish Volunteer Day is presented by the JCRC in partnership with more than a dozen Jewish organizations, including synagogues, the Board of Rabbis of Northern California, S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services, the Jewish Coalition for Literacy and other agencies. — j. staff