Legal Services for Jewish Poor

A federally funded program to provide legal aid to Jewish poor and elderly got underway this week with the opening of an office in downtown Brooklyn of the Community Action for Legal Services. According to Steven M. Bernstein, the attorney in charge of the new office at 130 Clinton Street, the service is operating under a $300,000 grant from the Office of Economic Opportunity and is especially designed to assist Yiddish-speaking clients.

Its staff includes 10 attorneys, half of whom are Yiddish-speaking, and the program will engage in outreach activities directed at Hasidic and elderly Jews who meet the federal eligibility criteria and who may not have been served by existing programs.

Under federal funding, the CALS office is nonsectarian and will also serve poor and elderly from other minority groups. In establishing the new office, CALS worked closely with the Advisory Board for Legal Assistance to the Jewish Poor, Bernstein said. Its primary geographical focus will be on Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Boro Park, areas of large Jewish residents.

According to Bernstein, a former Legal Aid Society staff attorney. Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R. NY) played a major role in securing the OEO grant which was first announced last Aug. Javits, a ranking minority member of the Senate Labor Committee, was a cosponsor of an amendment to the Economic Opportunity Act which requires the OEO to consider the needs of poor persons who have not been previously served by anti-poverty programs.

The Advisory Board for Legal Assistance to the Jewish Poor will work with CALS to ensure that other legal services offices take appropriate steps to meet the needs of the Jewish poor in the city, Bernstein said.

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