In the darkness of the harsh winter, with poverty and illness ever present, tens of thousands of Jewish children and their families will be warmed by the Chanukah lights and receive relief, thanks to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ)-JDC Partnership for Children in the Former Soviet Union. A new $2.5 million gift from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein on behalf of IFCJ will support children who benefit from the IFCJJDC Partnership, as well as needy elderly Jews for whom IFCJ provides major annual support through JDC.

“At this time of year, when we reflect on the story of Chanukah—of the rekindling of Jewish life in a place where it had been wiped away—we are fortunate to have Rabbi Eckstein and IFCJ as our partners in our efforts to combat the poverty and other ills faced by so many needy elderly, Jewish children and their families in the region,” said JDC’s Chief Executive Officer Steven Schwager.“ By providing basic needs to these clients, our partnership with IFJC is truly performing miracles.”

Established in 2008, the IFCJJDC Partnership for Children in The FSU provides 25,000 children—many of them impoverished, or from homes suffering from unemployment, alcoholism, drug abuse, and family strife—with basic food, medicine, shelter, and clothing. As these children and their families continue to feel the impact of the global economic crisis, new needs have arisen as a result of fluctuating inflation rates, widespread levels of unemployment and underemployment, and slashed incomes.

In addition to basic needs, the IFCJJDC Partnership also provides critical social services and integrates the children and their families into the local Jewish communities through subsidized programming. This can include informal Jewish education, holiday celebrations and the receipt of special Chanukah holiday packages for clients of the IFCJJDC Partnership.

Among the hundreds of families who have been assisted by the IFCJJDC Partnership is the Turaev family from Uzbekistan:

Gabriel, 4, and Arniel, 1, don’t really have a home to call their own. As a result of the financial downturn in the region, the boys are living in a crowded apartment with relatives, together with their parents Alexey and Irina. Because Alexey was laid off in March 2009 and Irina has been out of work since giving birth to Arniel, the family scrapes by on the small amount of money made through Alexey’s taxi driving jobs. Additionally the Turaevs, who are not eligible for a social pension, receive meager help from both Alexy and Irina’s mothers, who themselves live on very tight budgets. Sadly, the little money they do have was stretched even further recently when Gabriel came down with several viral infections that required immediate treatment.

And yet, through the IFCJJDC Partnership, the two boys will receive food packages and other basic needs this winter. Such support, a true Chanukah gift for this struggling family, will ensure that while Alexy and Irina seek to make ends meet, their two young sons can get the basic nutrition and care that is lacking among tens of thousands of Jewish children at risk across the former Soviet Union.

Based in Chicago and Jerusalem, under the leadership of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, IFCJ is governed by a Board of distinguished Christians and Jews. Since 1999, the Fellowship has contributed more than $46 million to JDC on behalf of elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union as well as to the crucial expansion of services for the region’s impoverished Jewish children. Funded primarily by Christians, IFCJ, a not-for-profit organization, promotes a greater understanding between Jews and Christians and builds Christian support for Israel and other shared concerns.

JDC’s historic support of Jewish people in the former Soviet Union began in 1991 with support from the Jewish Federations of North America, Claims Conference, Swiss Banks Settlement, Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and other funders. After seven decades of Communist repression and Nazi terror, JDC facilitated the rebirth of Jewish communities throughout the region and continues to help sustain the neediest in 2,900 cities across eleven times zones.