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Greater Miami Jewish Federation

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Stories of Success

Learn about 1 of Us

The economic downturn is creating new challenges for so many of our friends and neighbors AND the Federation and our family of beneficiary agencies are helping in numerous ways. For every story of difficulty and despair, there is another story of hope and promise.

Learn about some of the individuals – the 1 in 8 people – in Miami’s Jewish community who you are helping through your generous support of the Annual Greater Miami Jewish Federation/UJA Campaign.

Please note that, in keeping with the Jewish value of preserving the dignity of those receiving assistance, photos and last names of profiled subjects are not being used.


Martin, 40, was running a successful fabric business in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Martin, his wife, Karina, and their son, Nicolas, lived in a vibrant Jewish community.

But when Argentina was hit with a terrible economic crisis in 2001, Martin lost his business and the family nearly lost their home. Fearing things would worsen, he moved in with his father in Miami and found a job as a research analyst.

Soon, Karina and Nicolas joined him, but life in Miami has been tough for the young family. Martin’s job does not pay well, and living costs are high in South Florida.

When a friend heard Martin’s story, he suggested contacting Jewish Community Services (JCS), a Federation beneficiary agency. Soon, Martin was getting regular calls from a social worker through JCS’ Latin American Migration Program. The family can now send Nicolas, 8, to Jewish Day School because Federation grants help lower tuition. Another grant helps the couple send their daughter, Malena, to preschool. JCS also connected the family with an immigration lawyer and a Spanish-speaking doctor.

“Every moment we’ve needed our social worker, she’s been there for us,” he said. “The love and support we’ve received from JCS is incredible. We still need their help. But there are many more people who need help.”


For 15 years after her first husband passed away, Lee was able to pay the mortgage on her Miami Beach condo. But when her arthritis prevented her from working, she could no longer afford her home.

Today, Lee, 86, and her second husband, Eliezer, enjoy life in Federation Towers, a 114-unit apartment building for low-income seniors funded by the Federation. Lee meets friends in the dining room and takes pleasure in the lunches provided each weekday. One of two social workers checks in on the couple regularly, particularly when the arthritis in Lee's knees is so painful she cannot walk. On those days, nutritious kosher meals are delivered to their door by Jewish Community Services, another Federation beneficiary agency.

“It’s wonderful to have someone you feel comfortable with — and to know you will receive assistance,” said Lee. “Especially because I have so many different needs.”

Federation’s commitment to our community’s most vulnerable seniors is ongoing, but expenses are continually rising. In the past year alone, the costs of meals for the homebound increased 20 percent, due to rising food and fuel prices.


Joel moved to Miami to be with his wife, a student at a local university. A successful software engineer in New York, he has been unable to find employment in his field in the South Florida job market.

Joel contacted the Greater Miami Jewish Federation about participation in its High Holiday Welcome Program. The Federation was able to provide Joel and his wife with free tickets to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at a Miami congregation.

While the Federation volunteer was registering Joel for the holiday tickets, she learned about his unemployment situation and suggested he call the confidential Access and Information helpline administered by Federation’s partner agency, Jewish Community Services of South Florida.

Counselors at the helpline introduced Joel to Jewish Community Services’ Employment Specialist, who helped him draft a better resume and provided some valuable contacts to aid his job search.

“I didn’t know these kinds of services existed until I started calling around for High Holiday tickets,” Joel said. “It made me feel very much part of the community, and I appreciate that the Federation was willing to help me in so many ways. I’m extremely grateful.”


When South Florida’s real estate market was going strong, so was Sanford’s job as a real estate appraiser. He and his wife were able to live comfortably — even helping Jewish people in need through support of the Annual Greater Miami Jewish Federation/UJA Campaign.

But when the economic downturn brought the residential real estate market to collapse, Sanford’s livelihood followed. Unable to find work, he called the Jewish community’s 24-hour helpline, administered by Jewish Community Services (JCS) of South Florida, a Federation beneficiary agency. While Sanford was merely seeking assistance finding a job, he got something more.

“They also asked me if they could help me with emergency financial assistance so that I could pay my mortgage,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

“Then, a few months later, I got a call from JCS again, asking if I was OK. I said, ‘No, but really, you’ve done plenty.’ And they said, ‘But we’re going to help you again.’ It was because of their assistance that my wife and I were able to get through some very difficult months.

“We were at the end of our ropes… we didn’t know if we were going to have a home because I wasn’t working… but thank G-d for the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. I appreciate what they’ve done to help me, and I know that they do the same for many other people, ” said Sanford, who recently expressed his gratitude with another contribution to the Annual Campaign.


Michael grew up in an upper-middle-class Jewish family, enjoying a comfortable life that included a private cabana at a Miami Beach hotel. After college, he and his older brother went to work in the family retail business.

That business flourished for many years, but a variety of factors forced the brothers to close their store. Michael was able to make ends meet through a series of short-term jobs and by living off savings and cashed-in IRAs, before finally plunging into a full-scale employment search – just in time for the downturn in the economy.

Michael, now 49, never dreamed he would be in this position. “I used every method I could think of to find a job,” he said. “It was a very humbling experience.”

Through networking, Michael was able to connect with the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s lead social-service beneficiary agency, Jewish Community Services (JCS) of South Florida.

A JCS Employment Specialist helped him rework his resume and sent him job leads – ultimately helping him find a position.

This was actually the second time a Federation-funded program has touched Michael’s life. “My developmentally challenged younger brother received years of vocational training through JCS,” he said. “I am so thankful that our Jewish community supports such a wide variety of services through the Federation.”

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, please call our Jewish community’s 24-hour confidential helpline at 305.576.6550, administered by Jewish Community Services of South Florida.

If you have received assistance from the Jewish community and would like to share your story of gratitude, please contact or 786.866.8406.

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