As record cold blasts the U.S. and Northern Europe, it’s easy to forget that 78-year-old Irina, suffering from debilitating arthritis, must struggle to overcome the Ukrainian winter with nothing more than an ancient firewood heater. But for 18 years, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has ensured that tens of thousands of poor, elderly Jews like Irina receive heating fuel, blankets, warm jackets, clothes and boots each winter in nearly 2,800 cities across the former Soviet Union.

“Despite impenetrable weather and below-freezing temperatures, JDC provides these Jews—among the poorest in the world—with a desperately needed lifeline. With no other safety net and a total inability to obtain basic necessities, we’re making sure they feel some warmth, and hope, when they need it most,” said JDC CEO Steven Schwager.

From St. Petersburg to Tomsk (Siberia), from Kiev to Baku, JDC provides special winter relief through more than 160 Hesed welfare centers in the region. Included in the assistance is food packages or debit cards for groceries, medicine and homecare visits. In addition to services for the elderly, critical nutritional, medical and other assistance is provided to 27,000 Jewish children and their families through The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ)-JDC Partnership for Children.

JDC’s historic support of Jewish people in the former Soviet Union began in 1991. After seven decades of Communist repression and Nazi terror, JDC has facilitated the rebirth of Jewish communities and continues to help sustain Jewish life and the neediest Jews across nine times zones.