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Jewish Family Service responds to growing unemployment rolls

by Don Weitz

Special to DJW

Over the past few weeks, it seems every time you hear a local news report, there's been another layoff. Texas Instruments: 1,200 jobs cut. Alcatel: 590. Tyco: 537. Chorum Technologies: 250. Verizon: 120.

Are we descending into a downturn or possibly a recession? The answer is difficult for economists, easy for the professional who has just been "down-sized."

While the state unemployment rate may be low, it is 100 percent for anyone recently laid off. Jewish Family Service is a constituent agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, and among myriad resources, offers career and employment services to the unemployed, underemployed, and employed in search of a new position.

Camille Kramer, Coordinator of Career and Employment Services, has been with the agency 17 years. "Whenever we have an economic downturn, we become more vital." The last three months, there's been a marked increase in the number of clients. Since the beginning of 2000, the agency has sensed the economy is shifting.

A regular program is the monthly Employment Resource Group, which meets the second Tuesday of every month. At the April 10 meeting, approximately 70 were in attendance, a much larger number than usual. About 75 percent were in career transition.

Dorothy Wolchansky serves JFS on a volunteer basis in co-facilitating the Employment Resource Group, and is a board member. In 1993, she had been facilitating the employment group that met at Congregation Shearith Israel. She brought the concept to Jewish Family Service so that it could be developed on a larger scale. With the endorsement and co-sponsorship of the Rabbinical Council of Greater Dallas, the group found a new home and reaches out to the wider community.

The April meeting featured Kelley Burgess of Innovative Staffing, who made a presentation of "How to Schmooze." Key points covered included how to develop communication skills that result in a self-confident, professional attitude, such as posture, how one shakes hands, eye contact, and knowing what to say.

Wolchansky characterizes today's economic situation in the DFW area as a soft downturn. "However, when you look at the metroplex, we still have construction going on. The numbers don't reflect the companies that are transferring here, or going through mergers and acquisitions. Where it might have taken someone a week to find a job, it's now taking two weeks, three weeks, six weeks."

Michael Fleisher, executive director of Jewish Family Service, said he feels that "even though there are statistics that we are peppered with on a monthly basis about the number of unemployed or the number of layoffs, last year when the unemployment numbers were very low, we actually saw an increase in our services. There are always people in the job market, and there are always people who are losing their jobs. While statewide unemployment may be only be 4.5 percent, if you need a job, that figure doesn't mean anything to you."

How to handle a layoff

"First, relax, it will work out," advises Kramer. "Do not panic. Allow yourself time to regroup. Establish a plan for your job search. Planning is critical because of one's emotional health, and that of the spouse and family. Keep both oars in the water, so to speak, and know what direction you're heading. The thing I hear most often is that people don't know where to go, what to do. What skills do I have that are transferable to other industries? And how can I access those industries? You can find that out in a number of ways. That's where we start doing a lot of individual work with a person. It takes a lot of work. New resume, new networks, new friends, new information and so on."

The agency's professional career counselors provide individualized services for the unemployed, underemployed and those wishing to change careers. Formal testing and assessment can be done to clarify values, identify interests, assess temperament and explore a variety of career options.


The Job Search Resource Center offers access to the Internet, area publications, fax machine, telephone, and job listings. It is open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon, Friday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

If one is reluctant to come in for individual services, volunteer mentors are prepared to help clients in the resource center. Those who are having difficult time dealing with the emotional issues of the employment search will be referred to the counselors. Employers receive candidate profiles for pre-screening, a job requisition posting service and book of candidates' resumes.

"We also provide job seeking skills and training for the Russian immigrants, to help them get placed. We also serve the disabled in their job searches," according to Kramer.

Fleisher added, "We see ourselves as being able to help a group of individuals who historically have an even greater challenge of securing and maintaining productive positions in the job market."

Video is used in the counseling process. The client is videotaped, and can see first-hand what he or she is doing that may influence interviewers to choose other candidates. The feedback is very valuable in enabling the job seeker to perform "in the hot seat."

The monthly Employment Resource Group and the Job Search Resource Center are free of charge to the general community. All other services are available on a sliding scale fee basis, meaning that a client pays according to his ability.

Fleisher said, "With our new location, we are in a better position to work with a wide variety of employers who are within a very small radius of where we are. And in turn, we'll be better able to serve the job seeker who may be looking at any number of different levels of work, because we have those relationships. We make the introduction and the job is then filled, satisfying two very important needs." Fleisher continued, "We're working with an area congregation that's interested in offering a complimentary employment group, and we look to that as the kind of model where we work with Jewish organizations and synagogues to address the needs of their membership or constituency. We have the professional expertise that is paired with their caring and interest to produce a quality program."

The next Employment Resource Group will take place at 7:30 p.m. June 12 at JFS. You'll learn all about "Resumes that Get Attention!" The speaker, Tonya Johnson, is the owner of Performance Management and Coaching. The event is free and open to the public. Resumes are welcome.

Jewish Family Service is located at 5402 Arapaho Road, Dallas, in the southeast quadrant of the Dallas North Tollway and Arapaho Road. The office can be reached at (972) 437-9950. The Web site is www.jfsdallas.org.

This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Thursday, May 10, 2001

and was last modified on: Thu, Jun 7, 2001








Copyright 2001, Dallas Jewish Week