JDC Chanukah Celebrations Bring Out Thousands across the Former Soviet Union

Scores of multigenerational volunteers at the heart of holiday events

This Chanukah, thousands of Jews in the former Soviet Union will celebrate the annual Festival of Lights by partaking in holiday celebrations and menorah lightings, concerts, holiday meals, and Jewish cultural workshops at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) network of Hesed social welfare centers and Jewish community centers. Scores of JDC-trained volunteers of all ages are leading these Chanukah activities, a growing trend in the former Soviet Union.

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JDC Global Activities Promote International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Inclusive Jewish Communities

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) will celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities with a week of educational, training, and volunteer activities in eight countries worldwide. Leveraging the expertise of Israel Unlimited – JDC’s partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation and Israeli Government to advance inclusivity and independent living for Israelis with disabilities – Jewish community leaders and professionals, JDC staff experts, and hundreds of people with and without disabilities with gather to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in their local communities and wider society. Nearly 1 billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, have a disability.

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Largest FSU Jewish Teen Gathering Spotlights Emerging Leaders

Hundreds of Jewish youth leaders in Kharkov, Ukraine for Active Jewish Teens conference

More than 350 Jewish teens and young adult leaders from the former Soviet Union will celebrate their role in strengthening Jewish life at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Active Jewish Teens (AJT) Conference in Kharkov, Ukraine from November 16-19. The gathering, created and run with the AJT teens, will include participants from JDC and BBYO networks in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Estonia, and Israel. And for the first time, American teens active in BBYO, the Jewish teen movement, will also join as part of JDC and BBYO’s global partnership focused on building a worldwide movement of Jewish young people.

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JDC Responds to Mexican Earthquake

Monitoring Hurricane Maria’s Impact & Continuing Irma Response Efforts in Caribbean and Cuba

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is responding to the devastating 7.1 earthquake in Central Mexico, immediately supporting the search, rescue, and emergency aid efforts of CADENA, its Mexican Jewish humanitarian partner, in hard-hit Mexico City. This work, as well as the tracking of Hurricane Maria’s impending impact in the Caribbean, is an expansion of JDC’s ongoing response to Hurricane Irma in the region. To support JDC’s relief efforts in Mexico, visit: jdc.org/mexicorelief

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Thousands of Needy Elderly Jews in Former Soviet Union to Receive Honey, Apples, Extra Food for Rosh Hashanah

Holiday aid delivered by JDC to poor, Jewish seniors via IFCJ Lifeline, Claims Conference

This Rosh Hashanah, thousands of poor, elderly Jews across the former Soviet Union (FSU) will receive extra food and traditional holiday fare, including apples and honey, to celebrate the Jewish New Year. The special Rosh Hashanah aid – provided by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and its partners, the Claims Conference, and the IFCJ Lifeline, an operational partnership with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) – will be distributed throughout the region.

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Volunteerism Blossoms at JDC Summer Activities in Europe, Former Soviet Union

While American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) summer activities have long combined Jewish culture and learning with camping activities, volunteer efforts to help those in need, contribute to community life, and design camping experiences are increasing throughout Europe and the former Soviet Union. This is reflective of trends here in the U.S. where the American Camp Association reports that half of American-based summer camps now offer community service activities, while also making a positive impact on the community.

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JDC, Israeli Partnership for the Elderly Featured at UN Aging Conference

Professor Yossi Tamir, the Director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Israel operation and a noted expert on the elderly, addressed a special gathering sponsored by the Israeli Mission to the UN on July 5, 2017 as part of the UN’s Open-end Working Group on Ageing conference. In addition, a photo exhibition – A New Look at Aging – featured original, bold, and witty photos from photographer Oren Biran taking an inventive look at the vibrant lives of Israeli seniors. Asher Kleingold, 87, who was featured in the photos,also shared his experiences as an active senior.

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JDC: Kaplan Leadership Initiative Empowers Rising Overseas Jewish Communal Professionals

Philanthropic leaders Carol and Ed Kaplan provide funding to enhance leadership training, create professional networks

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) announced the launch of the Kaplan Leadership Initiative, a new Jewish community professional training program focusing on overseas Jewish communities. The new initiative— created through a founding gift from Carol Kaplan, a JDC board member and President of the Kaplan Foundation, together with her husband Ed—will provide the crucial tools and support needed to cultivate leadership among Jewish community professionals in Europe, the former Soviet Union, and Latin America.

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JDC Responds to Massive Flooding in Sri Lanka

Sarvodaya–JDC Disaster Management Unit, founded after 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, providing food and other emergency aid

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is responding to catastrophic flooding and mudslides in Sri Lanka, the result of the worst storms to hit the island nation since 2003. JDC, together with its local partner Sarvodaya, a Buddhist-inspired humanitarian organization, deployed its first responder unit to provide food, water, and other emergency aid in Sri Lanka’s five hardest hit districts, including the Galle and Kalutara districts on the coast where JDC worked extensively after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. The first responders are reaching beleaguered Sri Lankans by via road and boat where necessary. As a result of the unprecedented rains, more than 500,000 people have been displaced and more than 150 killed in the last 48 hours. Donations can be made at: www.jdc.org/srilankarelief

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Forgotten Jewels, A Haven in Havana with First-Ever Awarded JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant

Distinguished Finalists are GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II and Who Will Write Our History

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) announced today that Forgotten Jewels, A Haven in Havana, directed by Judy Kreith and Robin Truesdale, was awarded its inaugural JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant. The film recounts the story of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe for a safe haven in Cuba and ultimately, creating a diamond polishing industry in Havana that enabled thousands of Cubans and refugees to survive during World War II. The two finalist films selected were GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II, directed by Lisa Ades, and Who Will Write Our History, directed by Roberta Grossman and based on a book by historian Samuel Kassow of Trinity College.

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JDC Celebrates Passover: 50,000+ Matzah Boxes Delivered, Hundreds of Passover Events in Former Soviet Union

Matzah boxes delivered by JDC to needy, elderly Jews via IFCJ Food and Medicine Lifeline, Claims Conference Volunteer activities, Seder meals, matzah-baking classes, and concerts mark Jewish Festival of Freedom

This Passover, thousands of Jews across the former Soviet Union will partake in festive holiday activities — Seder meals, volunteer opportunities, cooking workshops and cultural performances — sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and its network of Hesed social welfare centers and Jewish community centers.

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JDC Joins Google Cultural Institute, Shines New Light on Jewish History

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) joined other prestigious museums, archives, and organizations with the launch of its own Google Cultural Institute page, bringing its renowned Jewish historical collection online to a wider audience. The includes close to 70 items from the 102 year-old humanitarian organization’s Global Archives including photographs, documents, artifacts, film, and audio, along with two abridged exhibits based on the centennial exhibit, “I Live. Send Help.,” originally presented at the New-York Historical Society in 2014.
“Our collaboration with the Google Cultural Institute affords JDC the opportunity to reach even wider groups of people who may have connections to JDC’s historic work over the last century or have interest in the harrowing journey of the Jewish people during this period. By significantly expanding our digital presence and becoming part of a family of institutions known the world over for their legendary holdings, we are ensuring that our efforts to rescue those in danger and provide relief for the neediest are given new significance and attention,” said Linda Levi, Director of the JDC Global Archives.

Highlights of the collection include a letter from Albert Einstein offering thanks and praise to JDC for helping French children escape to America during the Holocaust; a photo of artist Marc Chagall at a JDC-funded children’s colony in Malakhovka, Russia, where he taught art; a pair of eyeglasses held together by string, wire, and rubber bands, with the original prescription from 1947, owned by an elderly Jewish man who did not have the glasses replaced until the 1990’s when JDC came to his aid; and rare excerpts from JDC films detailing the plight of Jews during WWII.

Officially debuted in 2011 on the heels of the Google Art Project, the Google Cultural Institute enables global visitors to seamlessly navigate through content divided by key categories, scroll through select time periods, zoom in on ancient treasures, and take 360 degree virtual tours of museum and heritage sites – with solely an Internet connection. Users can also leverage the Google search tool on the site to browse broadly through projects, artists, mediums, colors, art movements, as well as historical events and figures. Partner institutions of the Google Cultural Institute, who have made their exhibits and archival content available online, include the British Museum, Yad Vashem, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, and the Museum of the City of New York.

Boasting one of the most important collections in the world for the study of modern Jewish history, JDC Archives comprises the historical records of JDC, which has worked overseas with Jewish communities and others in distress since WWI. With records of activity in over 90 countries from 1914 to present day, the archives includes over 3 miles of documents, 100,000 photographs, a research library of more than 6,000 books, 1,100 audio recordings including oral histories, and a collection of 2,500 videos. For more information, .

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JDC’s Social Impact Hackathon Focuses on Israeli Social Gaps

Microsoft, HP, and Other Tech Firms, Together with Programmers and Designers Partner to Help Vulnerable Populations

In an organizational first, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Israel (JDC-Israel) teamed up with tech giants Microsoft and HP, among other leaders in the tech space, for the inaugural JDC Social Impact Hackathon to benefit vulnerable Israelis. Bringing together 100 programmers and designers, as well as 30 mentors from 7 global tech companies, the Social Impact Hackathon leveraged state-of-the-art technology to create apps and programs to solve challenges faced by at-risk Israeli populations like the elderly and people with disabilities. While over 95 social impact ideas were originally gathered, 21 were chosen to be developed, with three receiving top prizes. Participants worked in teams on tech solutions evaluated by judges from JDC, the tech industry, and the NGO sector. JNext -; a joint project of the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA), the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, and the Municipality of Jerusalem, which aim is to strengthen and empower the technological ecosystem in Jerusalem -; was another key partner for the event. “One of the hallmarks of JDC’s work in Israel is channeling cutting-edge innovation in a variety of sectors, like the booming tech industry, to ensure a better life for Israelis whose needs aren’t met by established social services,” said JDC CEO David M. Schizer. “We are privileged to join with leaders in this field, and our government of Israel partners, to harness the enthusiasm of participants and make Israel a better place for those living on the edges of society.”
First prize went to Connected Community, an app for managers of senior communities to efficiently follow-up with clients, prioritize goals, and manage emergencies. Second prize went to Yad2All, a platform for people with disabilities to access rental apartments via the Web. And third prize went to IRemember, an app to help the elderly track daily medication schedules and family members’ birthdays. The winning groups will continue the development process via the new social entrepreneurship hub powered by JDC-Israel and the National Insurance Institute, with the potential to be adopted by JDC on a larger scale as well. “We saw some great ventures that hold potential for serving populations in need and can truly become valuable tools for JDC professionals in their work at the Social Impact Hackathon. The atmosphere enabled everyone to engage in open, non-formal efforts to identify real life needs and find matching solutions that can solve their target population’s needs,” said Elion Tirosh, an early stage investor, tech entrepreneur, and JDC Board member, who served as a judge. Additional judges of the Social Impact Hackathon included: Professor Mimi Ajzenstadt, dean of the Paul Berwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Gali Konky, vice president of product management at LivePerson; Yossi Tamir, director general of JDC-Israel; Professor Eugene Kandel, CEO of Start-Up Nation Central; Ilan Cohn, Ph.D, patent attorney, and senior partner at Reinhold Cohn and Partners Patent Attorney; and Dr. Michal Tsur, co-founder, president and CMO at Kaltura. “Israel is considered to be the start-up nation as well as one of the countries with the worst inequality in the OECD. Combining JDC-Israel’s social innovation with Israel’s brightest technological minds is what JDC’s Social Impact Hackathon was all about. We must incorporate cutting-edge technology into the planning and development of social services, whether in Israel or worldwide. We achieved some great solutions during this Hackathon-some of which we might even implement on a large scale. There are tons of new technologies out there and it’s up to us to make better use of them for Israel’s most vulnerable populations,” said Yossi Tamir, director general of JDC-Israel. JDC-Israel partners with the government of Israel and the NGO sector to create innovative strategies, solutions, and pilot programs to combat the country’s biggest social challenges and empower Israel’s most vulnerable groups.

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Kiev Jews, JDC Debut New Jewish Community Center in Ukrainian Capital

Holistic Facility Combines Lifestyle, Jewish Culture, and Social Service Offerings

Despite ongoing challenges in Ukraine, Jewish life is thriving and was given new expression with today’s official dedication of the Halom Jewish Community Center (JCC), a new 17,000 square foot facility located in central Kiev. The center — a project of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Kiev’s Jewish community — serves as a multi-generational hub for Jewish cultural, educational, community, and social service programs and activities.

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Days After Hurricane Matthew, JDC Increases Aid to Haitian Victims, Deploys Relief Expert

Less than a week after Hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is now helping provide hygiene kits, water purification tablets, and other basic aid to hundreds of people and has dispatched its veteran disaster relief expert/emergency field medic to help coordinate JDC’s on-the-ground response and directly assist in emergency medical care with JDC partner Heart to Heart International’s medical team in Jeremie, a town decimated by the Hurricane. JDC’s partnership with UNICEF ensures relief for hygiene and water needs.
“As the death toll in Haiti continues to rise, our efforts to aid the hardest-hit communities are vital as needs like shelter, food, water, medicine and medical services have dramatically increased,” said Mandie Winston, Director of JDC’s International Development Program “Our response is especially crucial as concerns about the public health situation and fear of diseases like cholera continue to further underline the need for rapid care of the most vulnerable victims. ”
Following the Hurricane, JDC’s relief work in Haiti — in the form of emergency medical aid and care –has been directed towards the most impacted areas located in the south of the island where hundreds have been reported dead and widespread destruction has taken a toll on tens of thousands of homes, livelihood, critical infrastructure like cell communications, key bridges, and roads, as well as food supplies and long-term food security.
A fourth JDC-supported medical team from Heart to Heart International was dispatched yesterday to Fondwa, a small community village in the Western Department of Haiti. JDC has a history of working in this area, having built a school and created livelihood projects there in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.
JDC’s Haiti relief partners include Heart to Heart International and UNICEF.
JDC’s disaster relief programs are funded by special appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors to JDC. JDC coordinates its relief activities with the U.S. Department of State, USAID, Interaction, and the United Nations.

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In Global First, JDC Entwine and HUC-JIR Announce Graduate Fellowship for Global Jewish Leaders

Jane Weitzman – distinguished Jewish community and philanthropic leader – provides founding gift to foster activism on global Jewish issues among HUC-JIR rabbinic, cantorial, and Jewish education students

In a first initiative of its kind, JDC Entwine -; the growing young adult initiative of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) -; and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) announced the establishment of the Weitzman-JDC Fellowship for Global Jewish Leaders. The pioneering graduate fellowship -; founded by Jane Weitzman, a JDC Board Member and Jewish community and philanthropic leader, together with her husband, shoe designer Stuart Weitzman -; will provide HUC-JIR rabbinic, cantorial, and Jewish education students significant expertise in Jewish needs around the world and in Israel. “While all major U.S. universities today have top graduate programs developing the next generation of leaders to face the challenges of our changing world, there is a desperate need in the North American Jewish community to immerse our up-and-coming leaders in issues confronting Jews internationally,” said Jane Weitzman. “I am proud to combine my passions for Jewish life and education worldwide to ensure that our rising rabbis, cantors, and Jewish educators understand the complex world that Jews live in.” Over the coming five years, the Weitzman-JDC Fellowship at HUC-JIR will train fifteen fellows to bring a deep understanding and passion for global Jewish issues to their congregations, classrooms, and communities across North America. These fellows will travel to some of the 70 countries that JDC works in today. The fellowship will also have significant impact on the wider HUC-JIR student body with increased opportunities to engage in international Jewish issues as part of their HUC-JIR course work. The intention is that future Jewish leaders will emerge with an expanded awareness of these issues in congregations and beyond. “This inspired, creative and exciting collaboration will offer our students ever greater opportunities to influence the global Jewish community, and bring Jews together in shared purpose around the world. When Jews face challenges anywhere, we must feel a deep sense of responsibility that transcends national borders. We are exceedingly grateful to Jane and Stuart, and to our partners at JDC, for helping to build this compelling new paradigm of global training for our students,” said Rabbi Aaron Panken, President of HUC-JIR. Weitzman-JDC Fellows will work from a special curriculum developed with HUC-JIR to foster the concept of global Jewish responsibility and activism on Jewish issues among their congregants, students, and the wider North American Jewish community. “We believe in investing in our rising Jewish professional and lay leaders, setting them up for high-impact, fearless leadership in a complicated, shifting world that also has so much potential and opportunity for meaningful Jewish life. It is inspiring that philanthropists like the Weitzman family, and institutions like HUC-JIR, are as excited as JDC to pioneer new models of global Jewish leadership,” said Sarah Eisenman, Executive Director of JDC Entwine and JDC Assistant Executive Vice President. Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America’s leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR’s scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement’s congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR’s campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. For more information, visit .

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More Than One Week Later, JDC Provides Critical Aid to Hundreds in Ecuador

More than one week after the devastating earthquake in Ecuador, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and its partners are providing aid to hundreds of people, including food, water, medical equipment and supplies, water filters and purification tablets, solar panel lamps, and post-trauma kits for children. JDC’s assessment team, comprised of its veteran disaster relief expert/field medic and Latin American community development expert, is on the ground in Ecuador, deploying and coordinating JDC’s response as well as distributing food to quake victims in an effort organized by the President of the Jewish Community in Guayaquil. “While the headlines on the disaster in Ecuador have faded, our efforts to aid beleaguered earthquake victims and communities are critical as needs like shelter, food security, and access to income and education sharpen,” said Mandie Winston, Director of JDC’s International Development Program “Our response is especially poignant at this time as it embodies Passover’s message to do all one can to alleviate great suffering.” JDC joined the aid distribution operation organized by noted CEO and Guayaquil Jewish Community President Johnny Czarninski to distribute 800 food packages and water to scores of people living in San Isidro, badly hit by the quake. This food distribution will continue in the coming weeks. You can read more about JDC’s response in this blog by JDC’s team on the ground:

“I am encouraged by the solidarity of the people of Ecuador and their willingness to help one another in this time of crisis,” said Czarninski.
JDC’s Ecuador relief partners include the U.S.-based Afya Foundation; CADENA; and UNICEF. JDC’s disaster response and recovery efforts are made possible thanks to the generous support of the Jewish Federations as well as individual donors and foundations. JDC has provided immediate relief and long-term assistance to victims of natural and manmade disasters around the globe, including the Philippines, Haiti, Japan, and South Asia after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and continues to operate programs designed to rebuild infrastructure and community life in disaster-stricken regions.

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One Year After Nepal Quake, JDC Empowers Women to Build a New Future

In the year since Nepal was hit by its biggest earthquake in 80 years, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) relief efforts have directly impacted over 49,000 Nepalis, with a special focus on empowering women in the areas of livelihood and health. Five new community centers have been established by JDC with local partners, serving hundreds of women and their families with childcare, psychosocial counseling, and tools and skill training. Recent seminars trained women to weave local materials into rugs and cushions for purchase by Kathmandu businesses and instructed local women community health volunteers in safer motherhood and neonatal care methods. To date, 80 percent of the $2.4 million raised in donations from the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors has been invested by JDC in Nepali emergency and recovery efforts.

“As we’ve learned from our experiences in other disasters, women, though hardest hit by a crisis, are critical to the recovery of families, communities, and nations in challenging times,” said Mandie Winston, director of JDC’s Disaster Response and International Development Program. “Together with our local partners, we have deployed a variety of programs including these new community centers to bring Nepali women together in the spirit of mutual support and empowerment.”

When the earthquake hit Nepal, 63-year-old Bimla, a farmer, returned from the fields to find her home destroyed. Living in a temporary shelter for the past 11 months and unable to return to farming, she recently completed weaving training at a JDC-established community center. “This training has brought me new joy. To be able to be with other women in the community and share common experiences have given me strength,” said Bimla. JDC has long deployed a community center model — where a variety of human and cultural services are developed around vulnerable and evolving communities — among Jewish and non-sectarian populations. These include a network of Jewish Community Centers developed in emerging Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union as well as Community Cafes for displaced people in Japan after the tsunami and earthquake in 2011 and a series of multi-purpose community centers developed in Sri Lanka after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004.

JDC has also focused on livelihood development, disaster mitigation, public health access, and education in Nepal. JDC, working with local partners, has built resiliency among more than 3,000 people in over 20 vulnerable villages in the event of future disasters through youth leadership, strategic disaster planning, and community empowerment programs. JDC is additionally supporting the reconstruction and upgrade of two medical clinics in the Dolakha district. The clinics, scheduled to open by June 2016, will serve more than 4,700 Nepalis, providing maternal care, orthopedic treatment, and other services. To date, JDC has delivered shelter supplies, hygiene items, medical supplies, clean water, and food to over tens of thousands of people living in the country’s most remote and hard hit areas.

JDC’s Nepal relief partners include: The Afya Foundation, All India Disaster Mitigation Institute, Heart to Heart International, Homenet, IDF Field Hospital, Integrated Development Society -; Nepal, Israel Trauma Coalition, Magen David Adom, NATAN, Possible Health, Rural Reconstruction Nepal, Teach for Nepal, Tevel b’Tzedek, and UNICEF.

JDC’s disaster response and recovery efforts in Nepal are made possible thanks to the generous support of the Jewish Federations of North America as well as thousands of individual donors and foundations. JDC has provided immediate relief and long-term assistance to victims of natural and manmade disasters around the globe, including the Philippines, Haiti, Japan, and South Asia after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and continues to operate programs designed to rebuild infrastructure and community life in disaster-stricken regions.

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JDC Responds to Ecuador Earthquake

Collecting Funds, Coordinating Relief -- Emergency Grant Also Distributed in Japan Following Major Earthquakes

In the wake of a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador, killing at least 272 people and injuring more than 2,500, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has begun assessing needs and coordinating relief efforts with both the Jewish community of Ecuador and long-standing partner Heart to Heart International focusing on medical care, medical supply provision, and water purification efforts. Donations for these efforts can be made at
“As devastating images from Ecuador surface, JDC extends its deepest condolences and joins our partners to deploy a speedy response that ensures relief to survivors at their greatest time of need,” said JDC CEO Alan H. Gill. “Our response in Ecuador, and in Japan, are proud expressions of the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world, and are fortuitous as we lead up to the Passover holiday when we celebrate our redemption from great odds. May all those impacted by these crises experience the same solace and strength that can be found in family and community.”
In Ecuador, the earthquake devastated coastal areas nearest the epicenter, including the cities of Manta, Portoviejo, and Pedernales, a major tourist destination, but damage was widespread throughout the country. Members of the Jewish community, mainly located in the cities of Quito and Guayaquil, are actively involved, like their neighbors, in earthquake relief efforts.
In addition to JDC’s response in Ecuador, a $25,000 JDC grant for emergency supplies including food and non-food items was made to JDC’s longstanding partner, Japanese humanitarian agency “JEN,” to aid people impacted by the recent earthquakes in the Kumamoto province. JDC, with a long history of working in Japan, provided emergency relief and long-term recovery aid following the 2011 earthquake and Tsunami.
JDC has provided immediate relief and long-term assistance to victims of natural and manmade disasters around the globe, including Nepal, the Philippines, Haiti, Japan, and South Asia after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and continues to operate programs designed to rebuild infrastructure and community life in disaster-stricken regions. JDC’s disaster relief programs are funded by special appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors to JDC. JDC coordinates its relief activities with the U.S. Department of State, USAID, Interaction, and the United Nations.

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U.S, Israeli Experts Gather to Advance Next-Gen Disability Services

JDC, Government of Israel, Ruderman Family Foundation, Ted Arison Family Foundation, and U.S. Embassy in Israel

At a time when the Israeli Government is planning a strategic restructuring of its welfare services with the aim of making them more inclusive, Israel Unlimited -; a disabilities-focused partnership of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in Israel, the Israeli Government, and the Ruderman Family Foundation -; is cooperating with The Ted Arison Family Foundation and the United States Embassy in Israel to bring a renowned delegation from The National Leadership Consortium at the University of Delaware to address a seminar tackling the most pressing issues in the field of disabilities today. The confab, which will be held on February 8 in the central Israeli city of Ma’ale Hachamisha, is focused on promoting cutting-edge innovation among Israeli leaders and decision makers in the field of disabilities.
“It’s time to advance and adapt our system to focus on individuals with disabilities and tailor services to his or her needs. Together, we can help the million plus Israelis with disabilities fulfill their dreams and fully and robustly participate in everyday life, including work, housing, education, leisure , creating families, and fostering friendships, ” said Avital Sandler-Loeff, JDC’s disabilities expert and Director of Israel Unlimited. “We’re excited by the opportunity to bring together Israeli and American policy makers, leaders with disabilities, and all of the other relevant stakeholders to learn about and implement significant change. An inclusive society, after all, is a better and stronger society.”
Seminar workshops will include creating individualized plans for the disabled, personal budgeting, independent living, developing leadership roles within the field of disabilities, alternatives to guardianship, and addressing systemic changes in employment, relationships, recreation, and education. Additionally, best practices from the U.S. that have enabled the country to improve its level of disability services will be highlighted. The one-day seminar is a part of a wider week-long conference in which leading professionals will discuss up-to-date policies and services in the sector with Israeli officials and advocates, including housing and independent living solutions.
“The issue of housing in general, and for people with disabilities in particular, demands a big revolution in Israel. The conference’s purpose is to promote the securing of resources for one, and a revolution in the perception of someone with disabilities as worthy and entitled to live in the community. Finding the answers will also facilitate solutions for additional target populations, and generate a quality of life that enables real inclusion and a change in attitudes among the general public,” said Shira Ruderman, Israel Director of the Ruderman Family Foundation.
Speakers will include Steven Eidelman, the University of Delaware’s H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Human Services Policy and Leadership; Lynne Seagle, Executive Director of Hope House Foundation; Professor Nancy Weiss, Director of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities at the University of Delaware; and Ari Ne’eman, President and Co-Founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. The group has led over 30 leadership workshops in the United States that have led to significant changes within the leadership of senior government officials, non-profit organizations, and disabilities foundations and leaders. Ne’eman, nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama to the National Council on Disability, is Jewish and autistic. He will tell his personal story, as well as stress the importance of using community integration concepts in residential, employment, and day services.
“Disabilities has been one of the foundation’s main fields of operation in all its years of philanthropic activity in Israel, rooted in its aspiration to advance an equal, tolerant and inclusive society by supporting organizations and projects that raise awareness and assist children, young people, and seniors with a wide spectrum of disabilities. The foundation’s activities stem from our firm belief that inclusion of people with disabilities constitutes the cornerstone for independent living within the community, based on the values of respect, innovation, and creativity,” said Shlomit de Vries, CEO of The Ted Arison Family Foundation.
Currently, Israel has 10,000 people with disabilities living in institutions and one of Israel Unlimited’s goals is to create services to allow people who want to leave these institutions or their parents’ homes to live independently.

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