Join the largest Jewish humanitarian relief effort since WWII.

Across Eastern Europe and Asia—in countries like Ukraine, Moldova, Russia, and Belarus—over eighty thousand Jews live in desperate conditions. Victims of both circumstance and oppression, they have faced the unimaginable: Many are Holocaust survivors; all of them endured the worst days of the Soviet regime. Now, with pensions as low as $2 a day, little (if any) family to rely on, and no personal savings or government safety net, these elderly Jews are left to face cruel hunger, debilitating medical issues, and freezing winters alone.

This is a humanitarian crisis, hidden in plain sight.

Eighty Thousand Stories of Hope

Each of the nearly eighty thousand Jews in peril has lived a long life filled with both adversity and hard-won triumphs. Here are some of their stories, along with those of the workers who help them.

How did this happen?

Under communism, the citizens of the Soviet Union were guaranteed government support for their entire lives. Though hard work and responsibility were central values in Soviet life, there was no culture for saving money for retirement. There was no need; everyone knew they’d be supported by a strong social safety net.

Then, in December 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed.

The economic situation across the region rapidly deteriorated. Pensions were cut or eliminated, social welfare systems unraveled, and prices spiked in many parts of the region; already meager life savings began to disappear. Though most elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union once led successful careers as doctors, lawyers, scientists, or educators, they now have little to show for their hard work; with pensions as low as $2 a day, they can’t even cover the basic necessities.

Meanwhile, a combination of the Soviet Union’s aggressive efforts to dismantle religious communities, the devastation wrought by World War II, and a century of anti-Semitism have left elderly Jews without the support structures and family that we often rely on as we grow older, and that most of their non-Jewish peers have.

Living on $2 a day in Kiev


1 Loaf Bread


1 Dozen Eggs


2L Carton Milk


1 Month Utilities

Saving Jewish Lives

JDC has been on the ground in the former Soviet Union for decades, caring for the region’s elderly Jews when the majority of the world didn’t even know they existed. Through our network of Hesed Social Welfare Centers, we work on a massive scale to ensure that the former Soviet Union’s Jews in need are able to not only to survive, but age with dignity and the support of a caring Jewish community.

Get Involved

Now that you know the story, help make a life-saving difference for tens of thousands of elderly Jewish people in need.

Here’s how you can join the relief effort:

1. Donate

Make a gift and save a Jewish life in seconds

2. Host an event

We want to help you share this story with your community

3. Attend an event

Learn from the people driving the relief effort

4. Join our Mailing List

Sign up to receive updates and stories from the field

5. Travel with JDC

Visit the old country and see the relief effort firsthand


Download these documents to delve deeper into our work in the former Soviet Union or pass the story along to others.

“Lives are on the Line” Brochure

This stark, powerful look at the crisis facing the former Soviet Union’s elderly Jews is ideal for sharing with others.

JDC Impact Report – Former Soviet Union

Learn more about our work in this data-rich document, which features infographics, stories, and more.

Stay up to date with our work.


The crisis facing the elderly Jews of the former Soviet Union is one that has gone unnoticed by most of the world. To share these stories, JDC supporters are holding events all over the world. If you’re interested in hosting one of these events, fill out the form below.


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