Before Sandy hit the East Coast, the Jewish Communal Fund (JCF) had already made the decision to help expand the capacity of NYLAG’s Mobile Legal Help Center – an innovative law office and courtroom on wheels – to bring free legal assistance to vulnerable Jewish New Yorkers. The mobile center is a key component of NYLAG’s participation in the UJA-Federation of New York’s Safety Net Program, an integrated social service initiative designed to assist poor and low-income Jewish New Yorkers, in particular the elderly. In the aftermath of the storm, the JCF’s support is directly enabling NYLAG to reach New Yorkers in devastated and often isolated communities to help them cope with the urgent and ongoing legal challenges they face.

“No one could have predicted how quickly after its launch NYLAG’s Mobile Legal Help Center would be called into service to provide disaster-relief legal assistance, for which it is uniquely well-suited,”  said Yisroel Schulman, President of NYLAG. “Thanks to the Jewish Communal Fund, we have been able to expand our disaster response by reaching low-income Jewish New Yorkers, people who were already isolated by illness, age or culture, as they struggle with the added devastation of Storm Sandy.”

Days after Sandy struck, NYLAG established a Storm Response Unit to assist those affected by the storm with advice regarding FEMA applications, public benefits, housing issues, insurance and other immediate legal needs. At the same time, NYLAG is preparing to address the long-term legal needs that evolve in the wake of such a disaster, drawing on lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina. In addition to the Mobile Legal Help Center, NYLAG is leveraging its strong partnerships with hundreds of community-based organizations, city officials, and law firms offering extensive pro bono resources. A new Storm Help Hotline (212-584-3365) and email address ([email protected]) are being widely promoted to ensure that no storm victim is forced to navigate the recovery process alone. NYLAG’s Storm Response Unit was initiated with funding from the UJA-Federation of New York and the Robin Hood Foundation.

Through the Jewish Communal Fund’s Mobile Justice Initiative, the NYLAG Mobile Legal Help Center travels one day a week to neighborhoods with significant numbers of low-income Jewish New Yorkers; staff follows up the rest of the week with clients via phone consultations and direct representation. In addition to storm-related legal services, NYLAG attorneys advise clients in areas including consumer protection, public benefits, health care, housing, elder care and employment.

The NYLAG Mobile Legal Help Center, launched early in 2012, was designed and purchased with grants received from the David Berg Foundation and an anonymous private foundation. The project is a joint venture of NYLAG and the New York State Office of Court Administration’s Access to Justice Program to bring free, civil legal services and court access to underserved neighborhoods where low-income individuals face barriers to accessing these services.

The Jewish Communal Fund, established in 1972, is the donor-advised fund of the Jewish community of greater New York. JCF manages 2,800 funds including individual, family, Bar & Bat mitzvah, NextGen and wedding funds. JCF funds empower donors to be more efficient and strategic with their charitable giving, resulting in an average of $250 million in grants distributed to thousands of charities annually. For more information, go to www.jcfny.org.

The UJA-Federation of New York City has been a central force for communal planning and philanthropy in the New York Jewish community for over 90 years. The organization’s Safety Net Initiative supports the delivery of services through funding to 23 network agencies to enable vulnerable low-income members of the Jewish community in New York meet their basic life-sustaining needs. For more information go to:www.ujafedny.org.