As communities the world over commemorate the Holocaust, JDC’s 21 Jewish Service Corps (JSC) fellows—currently serving in year-long volunteer positions in Belarus, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Israel, Rwanda, Slovakia, Turkey, and Ukraine—connected in Jerusalem for a week-long seminar to share their overseas experiences. This morning, following a poignant period of silence outside JDC’s Jerusalem office, the fellows memorialized the 6 million murdered Jews by gathering on the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University to recite kaddish and participate in a peer-led discussion on JDC’s renewal work in communities with dark histories.
Yelena, a native of Ukraine who grew up active in the Russian Jewish community in New York and recently returned to her roots as a JSC fellow in Kiev, shared the following:
“Renewal in Ukraine is seeing how, through JDC programs, kids bring their parents and grandparents back into the Jewish community, because they aren’t connected to religion or synagogues. Reconnecting them through culture and education is how they are rebuilding, after years of communism and their history of the Holocaust. It is incredibly inspiring to be a part of this Jewish community’s ‘coming back to life.’”
Adina, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, shared how her experience in Rwanda has brought her own personal journey—and her connection to JDC—full circle:
“I visited Pavlova, Ukraine (formerly Czechoslovakia) as a child with my grandfather, a survivor, who took us to see the city he was from and then traveled to different parts of Europe, including Budapest. This led me to participate in the JDC-supported Szarvas Fellowship, and now come full circle in my journey, arriving at my JSC placement in Rwanda. Among other ways, I connect to the Rwandan people through their country’s dark history; I have found people in Rwanda to be so positive, despite the genocide. It has taught me to be positive for them, if not for myself. Their forgiveness is their renewal.”
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