For the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the world’s largest Jewish humanitarian assistance organization, 2009 was a year of remarkable accomplishment. On almost every continent across the globe, JDC fed the poor, aided the sick, rescued and supported those in crisis, and rekindled Jewish life in communities far and wide.
In 2009, JDC marked its 95th Anniversary. In 1914, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau sent a telegram to philanthropist Jacob H. Schiff asking for $50,000 to feed starving Jews in Palestine during World War I. Within one month, the money was raised and JDC was founded. Since then, JDC has partnered with local governments and organizations in over 70 countries through programs of rescue, relief, and Jewish community renewal; helped Israel address its most urgent social challenges; and delivered humanitarian relief on a non-sectarian basis. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his congratulations to JDC on this important anniversary.
Across the 11 times zones of the former Soviet Union (FSU), JDC provided relief to nearly 170,000 destitute elderly Jews in over 2,800 cities, towns, and villages. A network of more than 170 JDC-supported Hesed welfare centers and other Jewish organizations offered vital services, including food, medicine, and homecare, as well as thousands of blankets, boots, warm jackets, and gallons of heating fuel oil for the neediest clients. For the work of its Hesed activity in Kiev, JDC was honored in 2009 in the Ukraine’s Philanthropist of the Year competition. JDC was the first and only Jewish organization to receive an award, in this case the first prize for work done by an international charitable foundation or NGO. In its third year, the competition was organized by Children’s World ACF; Ukraine 3,000; Ukrainian Philanthropists’ Forum; and the Center for Philanthropy.
In Israel, JDC, the Ruderman Family Foundation, and the Government of Israel launched a major partnership to benefit Israel’s 697,000 disabled adults. This is the fifth JDC-Government of Israel joint effort dedicated to bettering the lives of the country’s vulnerable populations. The $6 million partnership united several Israeli governmental ministries, the Israeli National Insurance Institute with JDC and the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation to advance the independent living and integration of disabled populations into general Israeli society.
In Europe, JDC continued to renew Jewish life in inspiring ways. 1,000 participants attended the Baltic States’ 6th Limmud-Keshet conference, a weekend-long study fest of Jewish learning and culture in Vilnuis, Lithuania. The Baltics Limmud was initiated and is co-sponsored by JDC in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. Since its launch in 2004, the event has resonated with the emerging Baltic communities, who struggled to revive their Jewish identities after the decades-long rule of Communism.
Through the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ)-JDC Partnership for Children in the Former Soviet Union, nearly 25,000 Jewish children—many of them impoverished, or from homes suffering from unemployment, alcoholism, drug abuse, and family strife—were provided basic food, medicine, shelter, and clothing. The IFCJ–JDC Partnership also provided critical social services and integrated the children and their families into the local Jewish communities through subsidized programming.
JDC’s International Development Program provided relief in the wake of several crises in 2009. JDC contributed to efforts on behalf of victims of natural disasters in the Samoan islands, the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and the Philippines, and Burkina Faso. Additionally, the Women’s Health Empowerment Program (WHEP), a partnership between JDC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, held the second Race for the Cure in Bosnia and Herzegovina. More than 3,000 Muslims and Jews, Serbs and Croatians came together to battle breast cancer at the race in Sarajevo.