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Programs for Displaced Homemakers

NEW YORK, N.Y.—Two new programs launched by Agudath Israel of America and the Bramson ORT Technical Institute reflect increasing attention within the organized American Jewish community to the special needs of “displaced homemakers” and other women returning to school or the job market after a number of years.

Since its establishment a little more than two years ago, Agudath Israel’s Fresh Start Training Program has obtained job placements (mostly in clerical positions) for nearly 300 “displaced homemakers,” i.e. widowed, divorced or separated women, and has trained some 200 more, according to the program’s director, Risa Schmookler. Most of the women are from Orthodox backgrounds, although the trainees have also included non-Orthodox Jewish women, particularly recent arrivals from Russia as well as black, Hispanic, Irish and Italian women. (Schmookler reported that 15% of the women helped were black.)

The program, based in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and funded by the New York State Department of Labor, consists of job workshops, training sessions and placement services. Counseling is also a key component, geared toward helping these women, who range in age from 25-65 but are concentrated in the 40-50 age bracket, adjust to their new life and employment situations, and assume additional responsibilities as family breadwinners.

A similar program, inaugurated by the Bramson ORT Technical Institute in May 1980 is the Women’s Career Center, also designed to assist women returning to school after an absence. Services provided by the Center, coordinated by Ms. Irene Hawks, Bramson’s counselor, include personal and career counseling, study skills workshops, special new student orientation to Bramson, and a resource center supplying information on materials and community services available for use by women students at Bramson. The center has also coordinated several Career Seminars, open to the public, designed to assist women planning to return to the job market in making career choices.

Both programs seek to provide women with both the skills necessary to qualify for good, well-paying jobs and heightened assertive-ness and self-confidence in both their professional and family lives.