The massive agency run by Gail Magaliff already had its hands full with the challenges of finding employment and providing other services to the needy and vulnerable in New York City and Long Island before Hurricane Sandy swept ashore. After the storm, the task became even more daunting, as FEGS Health and Human Services System rushed to provide food, clothing and emergency services to many of the 10,000 people it was already helping every day.
Magaliff met this challenge, as she has met others, with strength and passion.
Over three decades at FEGS, she rose through the ranks to become CEO in 2007, guiding a modest agency begun in the Depression to help Jews find jobs into one of the nation’s largest health and human services organizations. With 3,500 employees, 2,000 volunteers, 300 locations and an annual budget of $250 million, FEGS helps immigrants, the disabled and the mentally ill, with job training, counseling and even donated clothes for interviews, while also advocating for city and state policies to aid these populations.
Magaliff’s most recent focus is on the unemployed who are 50 or older, who struggle to find jobs; care for children and elderly parents; maintain their health insurance, homes and savings, and who can’t easily reinvent themselves in this demanding economy. “This is a population people don’t pay attention to, but they will have a longterm impact on the Jewish community,” Magaliff says. “We help them live independently economically and personally.” She likes to quote Maimonides on how tzedakah must lead to self-sufficiency, a value her agency reflects during any emergency.