What do you get when you cross the largest global Jewish humanitarian organization with one of the world’s leading Jewish youth movements? (No, this is not a joke). The answer: teenagers engaged in meaningful overseas Jewish experiences that will change their lives and the lives of Jews on every continent.
Six months after the devastating earthquake struck Haiti, JDC, working with its partners on the ground, is bringing hope to Haitians suffering from physical disabilities. Together with the Afya Foundation and Magen David Adom/Tel HaShomer Hospital, JDC’s rehabilitation program is ensuring amputees and others who have suffered severe injuries as a result of the natural disaster are receiving physical and occupational therapy to help them perform daily activities and live independently.
We were pleased to come across this headline, “Medvedev Follows Limmud FSU to Birobidzhan” on eJewish Philanthropy‘s website. Seems that President Medvedev made a trip to Russia’s Far East, specifically to visit the Jewish community of Birobidzhan, the capital city of the area’s Jewish Autonomous Region. The community is home to more than 2,000 Jews, some of whom JDC supports in partnership with two local Jewish organizations.
Back in January, about two weeks after the Haiti earthquake, Jacky, JDC’s VP of the Board of Directors, went on the first JDC Haiti mission to the devastated country and, while there, blogged about the birth of a new project formed in partnership with Haitian NGO, PRODEV.
We recently received some encouraging news from Taub, a research institute that studies and makes recommendations concerning Israel’s social policy. One finding: increasing numbers of Israeli women are entering the workforce and procuring gainful employment to help support their families. Among the most important factors contributing to this positive change is an increase in access to education, which is making it easier for more women to pursue university degrees. Other explanations for this improvement include more accessible/affordable child care, anti-discrimination laws, subsidized maternity leave, and the expansion of Israel’s service sector.
Sri Lanka Floods: JDC Responds and Prepares for Future Rains
Last month, a severe series of heavy rains and subsequent flooding hit Sri Lanka, affecting hundreds of thousands of people living on the coast in the southwest part of the country. Sarvodaya (a partner since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami), plunged itself into relief activities on the ground, coordinated by the Sarvodaya/JDC Community Disaster Management Center. They focused on meeting pressing needs—food, clean water, and medical care.
The Jewish Week recently announced its third annual “36 Under 36” list, “highlighting new innovators in the New York area who are reshaping Jewish life here and abroad.” We here at JDC are so pleased to announce that Jessica Balaban, Executive Director of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues (IATF), is one of the honorees. Jessica is the founding director of IATF, a coalition of North American Jewish organizations, foundations, private philanthropists, and international affiliates—of which JDC is a leading member—committed to the viability of Israel and equality for all its citizens, both Jews and Arabs.
In light of the heightened ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, JDC has expanded its welfare services, including providing extra food and medicine, to ensure that the region’s neediest Jews receive the care that they need under these unpredictable circumstances. We’re also continuing to monitor the safety of the local Jewish community clients every day.
This week, some of the Jewish world’s best and brightest—past Ralph I. Goldman fellows—hopped over to Israel on a study trip. Tops on the itinerary was priceless time with the fellowship’s namesake and JDC Honorary Executive Vice President, who posed for a photo with some of the 20 young trailblazers who have brought their wisdom and ingenuity to overseas Jewish communities during the past two decades.
Among the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against Jews was the confiscation of property, including synagogues, Jewish schools, cemeteries, other land, art, jewelry, and anything else of value. Worse still, in some cases, proceeds from the sale of this property by the Nazis actually helped fund war-related activities that we know all too well took the lives of 6 million Jews and many others. After the Holocaust, these properties were nationalized by the communist governments that were in power for more than 40 years. Since that time, efforts have been made to achieve some small measure of justice by helping both individuals and communities get back this wrongly seized property (or more often, financial compensation in lieu of the property).
Whenever the conversation about “where JDC works” begins and India is mentioned as one of the 70 countries benefiting from Jewish programs, we usually receive an incredulous, “There are Jews in India?” The answer is: YES, there are Jews in India–and not just the ones who are backpacking through from Western countries. India is home to a close-knit and colorful community of 5,000 Jews who take pride in their unique culture and heritage.
Community Building in Russia Takes Off with Knafaim Program
“It is not more bigness that should be our goal. We must attempt, rather, to bring people back to…the warmth of community, to the worth of individual effort and responsibility…and of individuals working together as a community, to better their lives and their children’s future.” This quote, from Robert F. Kennedy, speaks to a new JDC-funded program for Russian Jews, Knafaim (wings), which seeks to build Jewish communal life by engaging young professionals with educational opportunities to learn about Jewish culture in addition to offering seminars on general management and leadership-skills building.
The fact that there are economic woes in the Baltics is hardly “news” these days. But new to the media scene is how JDC is helping battle rising rates of unemployment and poverty among Jews in those countries—especially those who had managed to work their way into the middle class over the past number of years, only to find themselves knocked back down a number of rungs amidst the global financial crisis.
Young European Jewish Leaders Work Towards Bright Future
While the current economic stability of European countries is wavering, the future of the region’s Jewish leadership appears promising. Recently, a group of 20-something Jewish young adults from 12 countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Switzerland) gathered in Milan, Italy for Generation Next, a JDC-supported conference on young leadership.
Appreciation Abounds During Jewish American Heritage Month
May is Jewish American Heritage Month a time to especially celebrate the contributions and history of US Jews. Marking this occasion last weekend, President Obama delivered a special statement in which he said, “As they have immeasurably enriched our national culture, Jewish Americans have also maintained their own unique identity. During Jewish American Heritage Month we celebrate this proud history and honor the invaluable contributions Jewish Americans have made to our nation.”
Young Jews and Morocco: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship
Last week, sixty-five young Jewish leaders from across the U.S. visited Jewish communities in Casablanca, Marrakesh, and Rabat. As part of their study mission to Morocco, The Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) National Young Leadership Cabinet engaged first-hand with JDC programs, including a Jewish old age home, the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE) medical clinic, and thriving Jewish day schools, all run in partnership with this vibrant and historic community.
As Haitians seek out solid ground to serve as a foundation for their homes, their families, and their futures, JDC and its partners are working to meet their most basic needs and rebuild. Check out a slideshow depicting how we are supplying water, medical care, and even schooling for thousands of people living in both Port-au-Prince and more remote areas.
A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about a unique Yom Hashoah commemoration event in which a few JDC Jewish Service Corps fellows shared their experiences working in communities that have had difficult histories due to war or genocide. Molly, one of the presenters, is currently volunteering in various community programs with both local and immigrant Jewish populations in Berlin, Germany. Read her recent reflections on the JSC seminar, the connection between Jewish renewal and Yom Hashoah, and how her own family’s history is woven into her experience as a fellow in a country that epitomizes the quest for a Jewish “renaissance.”
The notion of “we shall never forget” now has its roots firmly planted in Albania’s capital city, Tirana. Recently, with JDC’s assistance, Albania’s small Jewish community, funded the planting of 10 trees in Tirana. The project materialized from a few different sources. Currently, Tirana is embracing its “one citizen, one tree” initiative in an effort to green and beautify the city, and the Jewish community wanted to make a contribution.
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