Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia
Following the ethnic warfare that gripped the Balkans region at the end of the last century, Yugoslavia dissolved and made way for the emergence of six internationally recognized, sovereign republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Serbia.
Today this diverse ethno-linguistic region includes small Jewish communities sprinkled in each of its states. These Jews remain after a sordid history marked by great loss of life during the Holocaust and sizeable immigration to Israel and elsewhere in recent decades. As a result, providing for needy elderly and ensuring Jewish continuity is a struggle for communities in most of these countries.
Today in the Balkans, in collaboration with the local Jewish communities, JDC:
- Saves the Balkan region’s poorest Jews: Emerging as democratic states after years of Communist rule has posed challenges to these states such as high unemployment, rampant poverty, and an aging infrastructure.
With no state-run social services to help the region’s poor, JDC’s lifeline to the most vulnerable Jews is critical. JDC provides a myriad of critical services to needy Jewish elderly, including food, clothing, home visits, and medical care. JDC also offers training and employment assistance to Jewish families struggling in the current economic downturn.
- Revitalizes Jewish life: JDC helps local Jews explore their heritage by running community holiday celebrations, providing educational materials in local languages, and giving Jewish children the opportunity to attend Jewish summer camps. Every year, hundreds of Jews participate in JDC’s regional gatherings, studyfests, and cultural festivals.
- Develops tomorrow’s Jewish leaders: JDC’s innovative cross-border initiatives for emerging leaders create opportunities for regional cooperation and networking among Jews of different age groups. These programs link Jewish communities that share a common geographic, cultural, language, and/or historic base and are especially valuable to those living in the smaller, more distant locales.
- Rescues victims of emergencies: Breast cancer is the most common illness among women in the region. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, where there is no national screening program for the disease, JDC’s Women’s Health Empowerment Program (WHEP) in partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure® is saving hundreds of lives each year by raising awareness and providing access to mammograms through health days, Races for the Cure®, and other activities.
Did You Know?
Jewish young adults from the Balkan region take their favorite Purim, Chanukah, and other holiday performances on the road through JDC’s “Balkan Caravans,” which bring Jewish song, dance, and tradition to communities from Serbia to Turkey.