Vouchers for Taxis
A “vouchers for taxis” program helps the elderly and disabled get to congregational events. It can also be a tzedakah and teaching opportunity.
Many congregations, concerned about liability and volunteer-driver burnout, negotiate with a taxi company to provide transportation to synagogue services and events. This approach allows the elderly and the disabled to participate without being dependent on others’ schedules. Such a program is often funded as a budget item or by specific-use contributions. This program reassures everyone that they will always have a way to get to synagogue events.
The logistics are simple. First, work out with a taxi company an agreed-upon cost for the service and create a simple way to keep tally and control access. Most congregations give a coupon to the driver upon arrival at the synagogue and provide another coupon upon departure. The congregant arranges time of arrival and departure either directly with an approved taxi company or through a contact person. The number of coupons given are controlled and tallied. Before initiating this program, it is important to define the scope and goal of the program, estimate the target population size and look carefully at the time and money needed to make the program work smoothly.
Some congregations have even made these programs a tzedakah opportunity. At a relatively low cost per ride, many people are happy to make donations to enable others to come to synagogue events. B’nei mitzvah students and confirmation students can encourage these contributions for their mitzvah projects. This is a great moment for teaching about Maimonides’s encouragement of double-blind, anonymous donations. (Such a process helps stave off shame about need.) It is also a wonderful way to teach inclusion and respect for our elders.
This is not a solution to every challenge. Some people use wheelchairs and not all taxi services have wheelchair accessible vans. Some congregations have members who live at great geographic distances. In these cases, it is a good idea to investigate whether the local Jewish Federation has a fund to assist in transporting the elderly and disabled. Many localities also operate vans for populations with special needs and will provide transportation to and from religious services and community events. Joining together with other organizations to secure these services and negotiate a taxi voucher program is an effective approach.
Thanks to Harriet Rosen, Temple Solel, Paradise Valley, AZ, for contributing to this idea.