photo: Romina Hendlin for JDC
Sitting with Vera, it is her tearful eyes that first grab your attention.
At 62-years-old, her struggles have been endless. But it is her inability to get through the month, the grinding poverty she experiences, that occupies her thoughts.
“I would starve if I had to live on my pension alone. Even though I worked for many years, my pension is tiny. I don’t want to think about it,” she says. ““I can’t tell you how much this assistance is saving my life.”
Vera, living in Kiev, is one of tens of thousands of poor, elderly Jews across the former Soviet Union whose dignity and survival have been ensured by the IFCJ Lifeline, a JDC operational partnership with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).
From food and medication to other critical aid, the IFCJ Lifeline has made all the difference in the lives of Jewish seniors whose personal histories and trials are marked by war, crisis, illness, and loss.
Indeed, the IFCJ Lifeline’s $26 million in aid over the past two years has made life so much easier for Vera and many, many others. The Lifeline is part of $150 million of operational support that IFCJ has invested with JDC to address the challenges faced by the poorest Jews in the world.
At its board meeting on October 23, JDC recognized this achievement and celebrated a critical partnership, which has restored hope for tens of thousands of impoverished Jews. JDC lauded the vision and leadership of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, IFCJ’s founder and a JDC Board member, who has served on the Board since 2001.
JDC proclaimed “its profound gratitude to IFCJ’s scores of Christian supporters for their role in ensuring the dignity and care of tens of thousands of poor, Jewish elderly and for the IFCJ-JDC partnership which heeds the words of our Prophets who call for us to engage in meaningful acts of tzedakah and to model for all the world the value of hesed” in a Board resolution.
“It’s my pleasure to bring forward to the Board a resolution regarding a critically important partnership that helps to ensure our work will continue as we move forward. Thanks to Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s dynamic leadership, we’ve been able to bring food, medicine, winter relief, and other support to people in tremendous need. These are people who are literally unable to help themselves and drastically need the help provided,” said JDC President Stan Rabin while introducing the resolution.
Rabbi Eckstein, who was greeted with applause and a standing ovation by the crowd of Jewish leaders gathered for the meeting, remarked, “The Torah defines tzedakah as feeding the hungry, and helping the widow and the orphans. We will continue to work with and partner with JDC for years to come to ensure every Jew lives their life with dignity.”
JDC CEO David Schizer also thanked Rabbi Eckstein and IFCJ for their support of poverty-stricken elderly Jews around the world, especially those in the former Soviet Union.
He closed the session honoring Eckstein by saying, “Rabbi Eckstein, from my heart, I want to share how much I admire everything you have accomplished, how inspired I am to be your partner, and how committed we all are to the neediest Jews in the world.”