The Jewish Relief Agency (JRA) is a nonprofit grassroots organization whose aim is to identify and feed needy Jewish families throughout the Philadelphia area. Steven Burda has been volunteering for JRA since its inception. He was surprised to find out there are approximately 57,000 Jews in greater Philadelphia area who live in poor and low-income households. However, Burda works to make all of their lives better.
Some of the families served by the JRA receive support from established Jewish agencies, but many do not. Most of the hungry and needy are recent immigrants from Russia whose language barrier and lack of familiarity with the established agency structures have left them outside of the existing net of Jewish aid. Others have been in the area for a while, but have fallen through the cracks.
JRA was able to identify 20 families in need for their first distribution in September of 2000. After their first distribution, the word spread about JRA and their clients grew to 48 for the month of October. By November, the number of families had increased to 92; and in four months they had received more than 1,500 calls requesting their service. From September to January, JRA had compiled one of the largest databases of Jewish persons requesting food assistance in the greater Philadelphia region.
JRA’s aggressive approach includes a monthly door-to-door distribution of food that includes rice, pasta, potatoes, canned vegetables, tuna and other products. Their delivery strategy has proven particularly helpful to those who are restricted in their homes or have limited means of transportation. Most importantly, JRA could not reach their goals or be such a viable resource to those in need without the efforts of their 119 volunteers.
Burda has been a consistent part of the work of JRA. He balances his work and study schedule to find time to work at the monthly distributions. He also has translated the JRA flyers from English to Russian and takes the time to communicate and translate for the JRA clients who speak very little English. Not only has Burda been a constant servant to JRA, but he has also taken the time to recruit his peers. Because of his encouragement, there have been numerous additions to the monthly distribution volunteer staff, and the actual volunteer base for JRA has grown. Burda receives no stipend or salary for his work. He believes it is his duty to give back and help where help is needed.