Following the lead of the Obama administration, the Jewish Funds for Justice is shifting resources and focus to the creation of “green jobs” — both as a way of fostering economic recovery and as a first step toward energy independence, a goal that has generated lots of talk but little action in political circles.
The group, which offers grants and loans to progressive organizations and runs programs in leadership development, community investment, advocacy and synagogue organizing, is making green jobs a priority across its expansive programming, said Mik Moore, its chief communications officer.
The term “green jobs” means everything from scientists working to develop alternative fuels for cars to window caulkers. The key to the JFSJ program, Moore said, is making sure the shift to a green economy percolates down to lower-income workers and neighborhoods that have been particularly hard hit by the economic tsunami of the past year. The goal: solid, well paying and sustainable jobs that also contribute to energy independence and ecological responsibility.
“One concern raised in recent years is that we can create a lot of jobs, but if they don’t pay well and if they bypass those in the most difficult-to-employ sectors, then we will have failed,” Moore said.
So his group will focus on providing grants and loans to projects — Jewish and non-Jewish — aimed at creating green jobs. It will also do political advocacy and work with other organizations doing similar work to ensure that the shift to a green economy produces sustainable gains for lower-income individuals.
The sweeping JFSJ initiative is in sync with the goals of the Obama administration.
“Out of the administration’s $800 billion economic stimulus bill, 10 percent is going to green jobs,” Moore said. “As part of the recovery plan to get out of the recession, the administration is placing a huge premium on creating jobs in this sector. There are literally millions of jobs that can be created.”
JFSJ officials will be busy in the months ahead crafting plans to turn those broad goals into specific grant making, advocacy and education. It will also seek involvement by other national and local Jewish organizations.
“For us, it’s not just about financial resources,” Moore said. “We have a lot of pragmatic tools at our disposal, and we have relations across the Jewish community.”
JFJS has some money to throw at the project; it has $21 million in total resources, and makes about $1.6 million in grants annually. Moore said no decision has been made about exactly how much of that will go to the green jobs initiative — but said “our goal is to have an impact, so it will be significant.”