Feature Stories

Jewish Music and Community Save Father and Daughter

"We've gotten so much help during our most difficult times," says Katya's father. "But I think it was the programs at Jewish Community Center that helped Katya the most."

Playing her favorite Hebrew song on the upright piano that stands out in her home, Katya sings of someone who asks God to “save all the beauty of the world … the beauty of any small thing … and also to save a little girl.”

For this 14-year-old, who lives with her blind father in a run-down apartment in Ukraine, that prayer has been answered.

Thanks to the Jewish Family Service (JFS) and other programs supported by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ)-JDC Partnership for Children in the Former Soviet Union, Katya is getting the assistance she needs to ensure her well-being—and bolster her Jewish future.

Katya was four when her mother—the family’s sole provider—died in a car accident, leaving her alone with her father and destitute. JFS caseworkers, worried about little Katya, reached out with food, medicine, and financial assistance.

Going overnight from young girlhood to caretaker took a severe toll, and in her early teens Katya rebelled. Lacking parental guidance, she started hanging out on the streets and was assigned to a boarding school for problematic teens.

By then, Katya’s caseworkers had already discovered her remarkable musical talent and involved her in the local Jewish Community Center (JCC) singing club.

“Music helped save me,” says Katya about finding a love and passion she never knew she had. “The singing club allowed me to discover my Jewish soul and my Jewish community.”

JFS staff ensured Katya could continue her music studies at the boarding school and visit the father she deeply loved. Bolstered by their warm support, Katya was soon able to return home. A JFS psychologist keeps tabs on the family, and new Jewish community friends are helping Katya cope with housekeeping chores.

“We’ve gotten so much help during our most difficult times,” says Katya’s father. “But I think it was the programs at JCC that helped Katya the most.” And he’s grateful that his daughter brought what she learned at the JCC home to him, so he too could explore his Jewish heritage.

Katya is now an outgoing young woman who participates successfully in city vocal competitions—but her JCC club performances are where her heart is. “At JCC, I have discovered who I am as a Jew,” she says. “And I love being able, through my singing, to help my own community, which saved me.”

Tags for this story: Families, Youth / Young Adults

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