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.
On August 31, 1914—96 years ago today—two men, Jacob Schiff and Henry Morgenthau, exchanged an urgent cablegram in an effort to help Palestinian Jews who faced an existential crisis due to resources from Europe being cut off with the outbreak of World War I. Little did they know (or probably even imagine) that this single action would give birth to the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization that today comprises hundreds of staff working in more than 70 countries, and ensuring that just shy of $1 million per day goes to helping needy Jews everywhere.
Earlier this month, we shared the launch of GuideStar Israel, a comprehensive database and resource on the 30,000 registered charities in Israel realized by JDC, the Israeli Ministry of Justice, and Yad Hanadiv (The Rothschild Foundation). NP Tech (established by JDC and Yad Hanadiv), the operating organization behind GuideStar Israel, helps these non-profit organizations further their missions by making information and communication technology more accessible to them. That means helping NGOs use comms and info tech tools to fundraise, mobilize volunteers, focus the public debate on specific issues, and more.
As the floods in Pakistan show no signs of dissipating, JDC is executing emergency relief assistance in collaboration with partners on the ground. We are working with Heart to Heart International, the Afya Foundation (both of whom serve as our partners in Haiti), and the International Blue Crescent (with whom we collaborated after the 2005 and 2008 earthquakes in Pakistan). Interested in supporting our efforts? Make a donation to JDC’s Pakistan flood relief fund.
Leyla Sandler, a social worker based in Washington D.C. and a member of JDC’s Next Gen steering committee, took her expertise to the field, volunteering alongside JDC-supported aid efforts in Haiti. Read her account of the trials and triumphs at the Bel Air clinic in Port-au-Prince.
Last week, JDC’s Next Gen group held an event: Inside Jewish Ukraine, in partnership with Combined Jewish Philanthropies (Boston’s Jewish Federation). JDC, through the experiences of two speakers—one JSC fellow and one RIG fellow—who recently lived and worked in Ukraine, shared the realities of modern-day Jewish life in the former Soviet Union. While the purpose of the evening was to discuss JDC’s current efforts to bolster Jewish cultural life in the region, our history working in the FSU through both World Wars and then post-communism seemed to resonate with attendees as well.
JDC Continues Legacy of Providing Aid to Pakistani Disaster Victims
Pakistani flood victims who will be helped by JDC will join the ranks of tens of thousands of their fellow citizens whom JDC has reached with humanitarian assistance following natural disasters in Pakistan within the past five years alone.
JDC Creates Emergency Relief Fund for Victims of Pakistan Floods
In response to the massive floods spreading across Pakistan, leaving destruction and desperation it its wake, JDC is collecting donations for its emergency Pakistan relief fund. Equipped with extensive disaster relief expertise, including humanitarian and development work after the 2005 and 2008 earthquakes in Pakistan, JDC is working closely with our partners on the ground to assess the most pressing needs in the affected areas.
Recently back from Russia, Asher Ostrin, JDC’s Former Soviet Union Regional Director, gives us an exclusive firsthand report on the impact of Russia’s eco disaster on people in the region, and what we’re doing to help.
The Hamptons—New York’s most desirable beach destination—is playing host to an exciting summer event: the JDC-supported Limmud FSU, an educational experience designed to grow cultural identity among Russian Jews. On August 15, The Hampton Synagogue will welcome numerous speakers from around the Jewish world including Matthew Bronfman, Dr. John Ruskay, and guest presenter, Jewish NASA astronaut, Dr.Garrett Reisman.
NPR’s “Morning Edition” program recently aired a piece about a common situation experienced by India’s elderly citizens. Many Indian children ride the wave of globalization to Western countries where they pursue academic and job opportunities. While their successes are a major source of pride for the parents, their decision to start their adult lives outside of their homeland leaves aging parents in a precarious situation; no one is around to help when older family members can no longer take care of themselves.
It’s widely accepted that a nation’s prosperity depends greatly on the activity and viability of its workforce. To that end, a recent Bloomberg article raises the concern that high levels of unemployment among the growing Haredi (ultra Orthodox Jews) population in Israel—currently at more than 60% among Haredi men—pose an untenable economic burden on the State and Israeli taxpayers.
For the first time in JDC’s 27 years of field work in Ethiopia, a team of Short-Term Service participants touched ground to support our humanitarian work running in the country. Currently, a group of students/Hillel members from the University of Washington are volunteering their time with various JDC programs in Addis Ababa and Gondar, including the medical clinic in Gondar run by the renowned Dr. Rick Hodes.
In times of sadness or crisis, the saying that “all Jews are responsible for one another” always seems to ring true. The tragic crash of an IDF helicopter in Romania was met with a response from a nearby Jewish camp run by JDC. Campers brought food, coffee, and other snacks for the Israeli search and rescue teams. This small gesture, much appreciated in a time of need, is a fitting reminder that anywhere in the world, Jews are intertwined, interconnected.
Prague’s joining the kosher party? Perhaps. In a city of just a few thousand Jews, two brothers are working to ensure that there is enough babka and kreplach to go around. The NY Times travel section recently featured a blog post about the Gunsberger brothers and their new kosher shop, King Solomon’s Bakery and Deli, the first of its kind since WWII. The brothers are hoping their store services anyone looking for “a taste of something Jewish.”
Congratulations to our JDC colleague, Dr. Aharon Weiss who recently received the very prestigious, “Blessed Holy Martyr Omelian Kovch Award” for his remarkable efforts to promote Holocaust education for both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. Aharon works as JDC’s coordinator of community programs in the former Soviet Union and as an adviser at the JDC-supported Tkuma Center for Holocaust Studies in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. His work with Tkuma extends beyond the lessons of the Holocaust as he is committed to fostering a greater understanding and sense of tolerance between different generations, cultures, and religions in both Ukraine and Poland.
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