In the face of a new, socially-distant pandemic reality, thousands of Jews around the world enjoyed JDC-supported holiday programming for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, specially designed for the pandemic including virtual gatherings for educational seminars, art and cooking workshops, as well as concerts and festivals for families. In addition, nearly 9,000 elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union, who receive life-saving services from JDC, once again received special holiday packages of food and traditional holiday items, including honey, to celebrate the Jewish New Year. The packages – delivered in line with the strictest health measures – help connect these seniors with the global Jewish community during this especially isolating year. This annual tradition is made possible by JDC through its partners: the Jewish Federations, Claims Conference, and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).

“At the heart of all we do are communities that inspire and engage, care and comfort, and are dedicated to making the Jewish new year a sweeter one than the year before. The pandemic has forced us to innovate to a new reality and find community in new spaces that have proven to be a draw for those who were already part of our community and those seeking new meaning and connection. We’re proud to ensure that global Jewish communities bring holiday cheer, life-saving aid, and life-affirming cultural and educational experiences to a widening circle of people,” said Mark Sisisky, JDC President, and Asher Ostrin, Interim CEO.

In Mogilev, Belarus, children received DIY kits to create their own holiday greeting cards which were delivered to isolated, elderly community members, while in Kyiv, Ukraine community members with disabilities participated in a workshop to create holiday fruit and honey bouquets. Meanwhile, Jewish community volunteers who are part of JDC’s network of volunteer centers – supported by the Genesis Philanthropy Group – in places like Novosibirsk, Russia and Lviv, Ukraine delivered holiday packages to poor homebound seniors who are alone without family to share the holiday.

In Poland, with many in-person events cancelled, the JDC-supported JCC Warsaw hosted an educational webinar for adults to help prepare them for celebrating Rosh Hashanah in their own homes, while in Jurmala, a city outside Riga, Latvia, Rosh Hashanah day programming included numerous adult lectures, a kids program, a festive dinner, children’s performances and live music. In Estonia, programming has been adjusted so events will take place in small, socially distanced groups, including a Sukkot celebration where kids and parents will meet to learn about the holiday, cook a traditional meal as well make seasonal arts and crafts projects. Meanwhile, in India, community members will participate in a High Holidays seminar, which will cover Jewish texts, the meaning behind the holidays, and a special look at the holiday of Simchat Torah.

Entwine, JDC’s young adult platform, offered several high holiday virtual events including a dedicated holiday edition of ‘Off the Shelf,’ Entwine’s virtual book club series, and a special presentation of EntwineNosh, an ongoing cooking demonstration and discussion series, which featured traditional Rosh Hashana dishes from Peru and El Salvador.