As Rosh Hashanah approaches, tens of thousands of Jewish children and their families, suffering from poverty, health problems, and the ongoing impact of the global financial crisis, will have an opportunity for a sweeter holiday thanks to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ)-JDC Partnership for Children in the Former Soviet Union.
Across the region’s eleven time zones, the effects of the global economic downturn have sent prices of food and other basic goods soaring, while widespread levels of unemployment and underemployment have slashed incomes, for many Jewish families. The IFCJ–JDC Partnership has helped to alleviate these burdens and provided nearly 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.
Established in 2008, the IFCJ–JDC Partnership also provides critical social services, such as the professional intervention of social workers to help break the cycle of poverty in these families. In addition, there is a focus on integrating them into the local Jewish communities through subsidized programming. This can include holiday celebrations and the receipt of special Rosh Hashanah holiday packages provided to clients of the IFCJ–JDC Partnership to enhance their observance of the Jewish New Year.
Among the hundreds of families who have been assisted by the partnership is the Vysochin family from Popasnaya, Ukraine:
For Svetlana and Yuri Vysochin, raising their daughter, Julia, and son, Ilya has been more difficult since the car-repair plant they worked in reduced their workload to only four hours a week. Living in a small flat in a town far from the centers of Jewish life in the Ukraine, the family is having trouble paying their $30 monthly utility bill in addition to buying the basic food and medicines they need. To help make ends meet, Julia, a 19-year-old college student, has been trying desperately to find work, and 14-year-old Ilya, who is disabled with a prosthetic hand, is helping the family keep afloat through his national disability allowance.
But hope is not lost for the Vysochin family. Through the IFCJ–JDC Partnership, they receive food packages and medicines on request. In addition to food, clothing, shoes, and school supplies for Ilya and Julia, the family also receives support from social-service and psychological professionals to help ease the burden during this trying time. And although they live more than 50 miles from the closest Jewish Community Center in Lugansk, the Vysochins will be receiving a holiday package to help them observe Rosh Hashanah as a family.
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. 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.