There are many well known organizations working to help destitute populations of disadvantaged people all over the world—but there is one generous group on Long Island working under the radar to help a particular populace in Nassau County.
That group is the Hatzilu Rescue Organization, a nonprofit that provides assistance to Jewish people in need from across the county. A source of financial help and a food pantry of sorts, Hatzilu, in operation for about 40 years, sends volunteers directly to the homes of clients to bring them food and also step in when a person faces money-related hardships.
Based at Plainview’s Mid-Island Y JCC, Hatzilu recently named a new president, Muttontown’s Alan Levine. The 52-year-old businessman said the opportunity to lead Hatzilu came about at the perfect time in his life.
“I was looking to get involved and find a meaningful way to spend my time,” said Levine, a member of Jericho’s Temple Or Elohim with his wife Susan and two children. “Everything just sort of lined up at the right time. The organization needs its next generation to step forward. Part of my focus is getting us to the next step with the younger folks.”
Tapping into a new generation is Levine’s top priority. He said the all-volunteer organiztion is staffed by retired social workers and educators, mostly in their 60s and 70s.
“They do great work. I’m not looking to reboot the organization at all,” he said. “It isn’t broken, but we can be better.”
The Hatzilu Organizatin provides help to Nassau’s Jewish population on two fronts, according to Levine. The first, financial grants, involves helping the client dig themselves out from the piles of accumulating bills—a monumental task for an individual who faces myriad disadvantages, including disability, divorce or even the lingering after effects of Hurricane Sandy.
Levine said a number of elderly individuals are in the support network, many of them Holocaust survivors in their 70s, 80s and 90s, living on social security and food stamps. Hatzilu also helps a lot of single parent Jewish families—one parent passed away or there’s a messy divorce—to help ease the financial burden.
“This isn’t a life-changing amount of money,” said Levine, adding that Hatzilu raises all of its funds privately. “Maybe it’s a phone bill or a car insurance payment. Just something to help them get to the next month. It’s not going to be enough to change their world, but it helps and it let’s these people know that there are folks out there that care about them and this gives them hope, it gives them a reason to believe.”
Hatzilu also works to feed the less fortunate Jewish families through it partnership with temples, synagogues and food pantries across Nassau County. The organization currently has two food pantries—at the South Baldwin Jewish Center and the Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainview—along with a number of other affiliates, which can be viewed at www.hatzilures
“We work with Island Harvest, LI Cares and private temples and synagogues,” said Levine. “We are unique in that our clients do not go to the pantry to pick up food. We have a network of about 40 people who deliver the food to individuals and families in their homes on a monthly or twice a month basis. We pick up the food from the organizations and stock the pantries as well.”
Levine said that typically clients are referred through a JCC, temple or synagogue. The client then enters an intense vetting process in order to ensure the resources go to someone in the most desperate of situations. Any submitted applications are brought up in the group’s social welfare committee meeting for evaluation.
Hatzilu differs from large, national organizations because it is on the front lines of the community, according to Levine.
“Other organizations help and give assistance, but we are in the communities,” he said. “We have a direct link and a direct relationship with our clients.”
In order to strengthen that bond with clients, Levine believes it is time to court a new generation of volunteers. With fundraising being the group’s biggest stress point, Levine wants to try a diversified approach to building a cache of resources for his clients.
“I want to try to institute peer-to-peer fundraising using email and social media, and apply for grants with foundations. Go out and talk to men’s clubs and other groups and try to get more folks to know about what it is we do,” he said. “We have to increase awareness. If awareness is out there, people and volunteers and money will come to us. When you talk to good-hearted people about this, they want to help.”
Increasing awareness means abolishing what Levine believes is a ridiculous stereotype—that there are no Jewish people in Nassau County who need assistance.
“Of course that’s false. It’s a belief that we have to overcome,” he said. “Anyone who thinks there are no needy Jews, I urge them to come to one of our meetings and hear the stories. Sit with us while we evaluate a client and you will learn quickly just how many Jewish familes in Nassau need help.”
Clients in need of assistance and volunteers who wish to help can reach out to executive director Laura Weissberger at 516-822-3535 ext. 335 or email@example.com. For more information, email Levine at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.hatzilurescue.org.