This week’s meltdown on Wall Street affects us all – as do rising food prices, the cost of gas, the ongoing mortgage crisis, and the looming specter of inflation.

Yet even in the face of these very real challenges – and the fact that their own sources of funding have taken a substantial hit – local Jewish social service agencies are doing their best to meet the increasing number of requests for assistance.

“We do what we have to do,” says Esther East, director of Jewish Family Services of Greater Clifton-Passaic. “We must be there for the people who count on us.”

That appears to be the prevailing philosophy of many Jewish communal organizations at this difficult time (see story, page 10). With less money available and no real relief in sight, these groups are being called upon to help some 20 percent more individuals and families find new jobs, pay their rent, and deal with the emotional fallout of hard economic times.

And that doesn’t even include natural disasters, such as Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey has established a special mailbox for hurricane relief. Funds will help Jewish communities in the affected areas and support nonsectarian efforts as well. Initial relief will go toward short-term disaster needs such as food, water, and medicines; and toward intermediate needs such as mental-health counseling.

While we might be able to outrun fellow Jews who ask us to help, we cannot ignore Jewish teachings that demand our assistance. Giving tzedakah is a fundamental part of Jewish life, whether we give a set part of our income to charity or donate as the need arises. We will leave it to the rabbis to drive this point home in their High Holiday sermons. In the meantime, we will do our part here by providing readers with some important contact information.

Jewish Family Service of Bergen County

Website: www.jfsbergen.org

Jewish Family & Children’s Services of North Jersey

Website: www.jfcsnj.org

Jewish Family Service of Greater Clifton/Passaic

Website: www.jfsclifton.org

UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey

Hurricane Relief Special Mailbox

Website: ujannj.org/rescue

or

UJA NNJ Central US Relief Fund

50 Eisenhower Drive

Paramus, NJ 07652

Attention: Hurricanes Ike and Gustav Rescue Fund

L.G.