Feature Stories

Woman of Valor Brings Hope to Struggling Jewish Families in Uruguay

“I am very honored and thankful to have the chance to restore dignity to so many Jewish families and to show them that there is always a Jewish heart and hand to help,” says Miriam, one of the founding members of the Tzedaka women’s commission in Montevideo, Uruguay.
“I am very honored and thankful to have the chance to restore dignity to so many Jewish families and to show them that there is always a Jewish heart and hand to help,” says Miriam, one of the founding members of the Tzedaka women’s commission in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Miriam has been a dedicated volunteer with Montevideo’s Jewish community for years because, she says, “our people should know that there is always a heart and hand to help each other in our time of need.” She spends hours each week giving dignity back to hundreds of poor Jewish families through the Tzedaká Uruguay Foundation (a Jewish social services organization established with help from JDC) where her husband is currently president.

In fact, Miriam is one of the founding members of a Tzedaká women’s commission that supports programs for children and families struggling to rebuild their lives since the country’s economic crisis earlier this decade. These are families like the Grinbergs, whose financial situation became so desperate that the five of them were sleeping between washing machines in the back of their laundromat business.

Poor and vulnerable Jewish children like the Grinbergs receive food, health care, and educational support thanks to the work of Miriam and her commission. The Jewish daycare center she helped launch offers a nurturing place for these kids to spend after-school hours so their parents can search for work and earn a living to support them. Beyond the financial help, youth at risk of dropping out of school or hanging out on the streets participate in Jewish activities that integrate them into their caring community.

But for Miriam and others, the transformation into an effective women’s volunteer group required overcoming obstacles—challenges that JDC’s Leatid training experts are uniquely qualified to help them tackle. A leadership training program pioneered by JDC, Leatid works to develop Jewish lay and professional leaders to better serve the needs and challenges of their communities.

According to Miriam, Leatid has been no less than transcendent in raising the professionalism and coordination of her group. With coaching over the course of a few months, the women reconnected with the Jewish values of mutual responsibility and compassion that inspire their work and began collaborating with other community groups.

Since the commission began working with Leatid, it has grown significantly—both in spirit and numbers. “Hundreds more women have joined us because we are successfully and meaningfully addressing needs in our community,” Miriam shares. She and this team of committed volunteers have assumed responsibility not only for delivering the programs, but fundraising for them as well. Today these women of valor are giving struggling Jewish families in Uruguay the opportunity to thrive, reinforcing the strength and viability of the entire community.

Tags for this story: Families, Women

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