Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia’s Caucasus
From the Caucus Mountains of southern Russia to the coasts of the Caspian Sea, the countries that make up this region include a diverse array of languages, cultures, religious majorities, and ethnic groups.
Despite oil and gas industry advances, today these traditionally weak economies are struggling to recover from the recessionary effects of the global downturn. Georgia continues to deal with the devastating impact of its August 2008 armed conflict with Russia, and to grapple with an unemployment rate of over 16%. Unemployment is also high in other parts of the region, and steep increases in the cost of energy and many staples exacerbate the situation of the poor and elderly. Social welfare systems are, for the most part, non–existent or rudimentary, and state pensions are among the lowest in the former Soviet Union.
The Jewish communities in many of these countries are comprised of two, separately led groups: those who trace their history in the region back thousands of years; and the newer arrivals, predominantly Ashkenazi Jews, who settled there after World War II. While centers of Jewish life are concentrated in the larger cities, there are some 400 smaller Jewish communities across this region. Turkmenistan and Tajikistan have the smallest Jewish populations, while Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have the region’s largest number of needy elderly Jews.
JDC works in countries throughout this region to:
- Save the poorest Jews by helping to provide, through some 40 welfare centers, essential food assistance, winter relief, and home care services to impoverished elderly Jews who cannot survive on their meager pensions; responding to the needs of Jews who suffered as a result of the fighting in Georgia; and helping to furnish basic food, medicine, and clothing, along with psychological and educational support, to Jewish children in need and their families, including children with disabilities.
- Revitalize Jewish life by providing support for cultural, religious, and social activities through 45+ Jewish Community Centers, cultural centers, and welfare centers, which offer programs for all ages and interests, including children’s activities and family weekend and summer retreats. JDC also supports 10 Jewish kindergartens, Jewish studies courses and activities for university students and young adults, and Jewish libraries, community websites, and Jewish newspapers and scholarly publications throughout the region.
- Develop tomorrow’s Jewish leaders by furnishing Jewish educational opportunities and training in leadership skills to teenagers and young adults, and organizing training courses for community professionals and lay leaders.
See how JDC is helping to meet acute welfare needs and connect multi-generational families like Natalia’s to Jewish community life.
DID YOU KNOW?
JDC Jewish family retreats in this region give young families a welcoming entry point to Jewish life; participants go on to start or join local family clubs that offer year-round activities and Jewish lifecycle and holiday celebrations.