As we reported last week, two Torahs handed over to JDC by the New York District Attorney were to make their way to new homes in Sofia, Bulgaria and Belgrade, Serbia. Timing is everything and government representatives in New York for the UN General Assembly enthusiastically offered to personally escort the Torahs back to Europe.
NY District Attorney’s Office Hands Over Rescued Torahs to JDC for Overseas Communities
In time for Simchat Torah next week, Jewish communities in Sofia, Bulgaria and Belgrade, Serbia will each get a very special delivery about which to rejoice: a torah. The two Torahs, which were stolen by a Brooklyn man and ended up in the hands of the New York District Attorney’s office, are being donated by JDC to these Eastern European communities. In Sofia, the Torah will help replace scrolls stolen from the synagogue 10 years ago. In Belgrade, it will be the first kosher Torah used since the breakup of Yugoslavia when Jewish community assets were divided.
As Yom Kippur descends upon us, Jewish communities around the world prepare for the traditional holiday customs: pre-sundown meal, synagogue services, fasting, breaking the fast…and of course, intense personal reflection. However, Day of Atonement rituals were not always so easily understood or embraced.
We at JDC know well that Rosh Hashanah traditions can take on their own unique flair from one country to another. A recent article in Slate shares that for the 35,000 Hasidim (ultra Orthodox Jews) that embarked on the annual pilgrimage to Uman, Ukraine (125 miles south of Kiev where the Breslov Hasidic sect’s founder, Rabbi Nachman, is buried), it was an inclusive and nearly 200-year-old “pray, eat, love” fest.
During this week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jewish communities around the world are taking the time to reflect, recount, and reenergize for the year ahead. We here at JDC are no exception. Steve Schwager, our CEO, shares his own thoughts about the legacy of JDC, what we’re doing to help Jews in need, and who is still in need of our support. Excerpts below.
Trying to imagine that you are transforming someone’s life in another country is no match for actually meeting the person whose life you’re changing. That’s why we were heartened that participants on the Jewish Federations of North America’s recent mission to Haiti created a blog to share the impact that their generous donations—and that of tens of thousands of others—is having on the Haitian people. Echoing that sentiment, Gideon Hersher, JDC’s representative in Haiti, reflects in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles on the progress being made on this devastated island as Rosh Hashanah approaches.
For Israel’s 700,000 adults with disabilities, this year will be brighter because of JDC’s special-needs partnership, Israel Unlimited, which was found together with the Ruderman Family Foundation and the Government of Israel. The goal of the collaborative effort: to successfully integrate these Israelis into society and live productive and healthy lives. The program is crucial as people with disabilities comprise 20% of Israel’s population.
Szarvas is More than Summer Camp for Albanian Jewish Teen
Not ready for summer to end? Neither is Besart, a 15-year-old from Albania whose exhilarating experience at the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation/JDC International Summer Camp at Szarvas, Hungary, has helped cement his Jewish identity. And that’s no small feat, considering that Besart is one of just 30-some Jews currently living in Albania. Prior to attending Szarvas, he didn’t have a single Jewish friend; now he has a whole community.
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