Nancy and Steven Schachtman, Yoav Segal, and Charlie Nauen
When JDC planned its first-ever Midwest Global Symposium in the Twin Cities along with its Federation partners, no one could have guessed that the Jewish world would be in such a critical moment and that a gathering of Jews who care would have meant quite so much.
Just days before the event, the crisis in Israel intensified with ongoing rocket attacks and Israel sending in a ground force into Gaza. And in Ukraine, a Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down and fighting intensified in the Eastern part of the country. Three local Jews were killed that weekend in random violence, including a JDC client who also organized social events at the local Hesed social welfare center.
The Symposium wasn't a chance to pontificate about future political moves in a highly uncertain time — it was a unique opportunity to learn about very concrete aid that is being delivered to Jews in these countries and beyond in their hour of need. The very presence of more than 200 people from the Twin Cities, Kansas City, and neighboring cities was a demonstration that American Jews care and can be counted upon.
JDC's CEO kicked off the program with a discussion of critical challenges facing the global Jewish community today. His powerful words were followed by the quiet but deeply impactful personal story of Aliona Druzhynina , a young woman from Ukraine who spoke of the dire need of Jewish elderly and her own heroic efforts to secure that help during fighting in Kiev. Julie Pulda — an American and a member of the JDC EntwineGlobal Jewish Service Corps— spoke about how she has grown to think of Israel as her own and her passion for helping those in Israel who are most vulnerable.
Afternoon breakouts delved deeper into real dilemmas in the field in some of the key areas of JDC's humanitarian work. And the evening saw a panel discussion with young Jews who are addressing the challenges and inspiring transformative change — including András Borgula, the founder and director of Hungary's new Jewish theater, Sam Amiel, JDC's liaison to the incredible Turkish Jewish community, and Andrea Siegel, a former JDC Ralph I. Goldman Fellow in International Service who now teaches at the University of Michigan.
Siegel spoke about JDC's way of encouraging local leadership and responsibility as a "world view" that has inspired her own engagement in the American Jewish community in turn.
Rabbi Jeremy Fine helped start the Symposium by leading a spontaneous Hatikvah. And Rabbi Avi Olitzky closed with a moving discussion of how JDC's work of compassion to Jews in need has become part of his family 's Jewish observance -- and could add real tangible connection and meaning to ours.
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