Parashat Bamidbar Torah Reading: Numbers 1:1-4:20
This past Tuesday, I participated in the second annual conference of the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition: Fighting Poverty with Faith. The Coalition made a commitment two years ago to cut poverty in Rhode Island by 50% in 10 years . . . as the conference opened, Maxine Richman, Co-Chair of the Coalition representing the Jewish Federation's Community Relation's Council, challenged us with the 8 years remaining to achieve our goal.
This is some of the reality facing innumerable Rhode-Islanders today:
In 2008, over 118,000 Rhode Islanders (12% of the population) lived below the federal poverty level ($17,346 for a family of three, $21,834 for a family of four).
According to the Rhode Island Standards of Need developed by the Poverty Institute, it costs $20,280 for a single adult to meet basic needs.
In 2008, almost 35,000 children (15.5% of Rhode Island's children) lived below the federal poverty level.
The maximum monthly benefit under RI Works is $554 for a family of three. The monthly benefit has not increased in 20 years.
Between 2006 and 2008, more than one in ten Rhode Island households were food insecure. Food insecurity is defined as not always having access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
In March 2010, the unemployment rate in Rhode Island was 12.6%, up from 6.6% in March 2008 and 4.9% in March 2007.
Friends, our neighborhood Edgewood Food Closet, as well as the Jewish Senior Agency's Kosher Food Closet, provide sustenance to hundreds of our State's food insecure families. I know we are constantly reminding you to bring donations of non-perishable foods to the collection center in our Torat Yisrael lobby. Please don't let repetition dull your sensitivity to the call. Please fill our bins to overflowing with canned fish and vegetables, meats, soups, cooking oil and nutritious breakfast cereals.
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.