The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) Chief Executive Officer Steven Schwager will address a major gathering of North American Jewish leaders at the Jewish Federations of North America’s 2009 General Assembly (GA) in Washington, D.C. Schwager, together with JDC staff experts from around the world, will discuss on November 8-10 the impact of JDC’s global humanitarian assistance work, including its critical welfare, educational, and Jewish renewal programs as well as its major global service initiatives.

“As we celebrate JDC’s 95th anniversary, we are looking forward to sharing the significant contributions JDC programs continue to make on the poorest and most vulnerable Jewish populations in the former Soviet Union (FSU), Israel, and around the globe,” said Schwager. “Always the‘9-1-1 of the Jewish world,’ JDC, in collaboration with local Jewish Federations and the Jewish Federations of North America, ensures that the neediest Jews are cared for and that Jewish life is rekindled worldwide.”

In addition to speakers from JDC’s Board of Directors and senior staff, JDC participation at the GA will include JDC workshops on growing needs in the FSU, poverty in Israel, and global service initiatives for American young Jews. JDC speakers will also be appearing in GA forums on Israeli children at risk; Ethiopian-Israelis; and at a forum for the Inter-Agency Task Force on Arab-Israeli Issues.

JDC-designed GA workshops include:

Israel At Risk? What the Economic and Social Indicators Really Mean
The gaps between rich and poor in Israel are now wider than any other country in the world. Since the 1970s, the country has sustained low economic growth combined with high and steadily increasing rates of poverty and income inequality. Dan Ben-David, one of Israel’s most cited academic economists and the Executive Director of JDC’s widely-recognized Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, will discuss how such stark poverty affects Israeli government spending, education, and social services.

From Russia With Love: Learning from Former Soviet Jewry, Here and There
Following Israel and the U.S., the countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU) are home to the largest concentration of Jews in the world. Today there are major opportunities to help these Jewish communities fully reclaim their heritage and rebuild Jewish life. Yet, there remain major challenges and impediments, with poverty impacting some 200,000 Jews in the region. Asher Ostrin, executive director of JDC’s Former Soviet Union (FSU) Department, has overseen the creation and development of JDC’s multi-faceted welfare relief program and its initiatives supporting the renaissance of Jewish life across the FSU. He will speak about existing and growing needs among the world’s poorest Jews, as well as the unique nature of Jewish life in the FSU and what we can learn from the experiences of local Jewish communities.

Strengthening Identity through Jewish Service Learning
With its menu of transformative global service programs, JDC is helping to answer President Obama’s call for young people to make a commitment of service to their community and nation. Jenna Mitzner participated in JDC’s Short-Term Service Program to Argentina and experienced first-hand the devastating impact of economic crisis on the country’s once prosperous Jewish community. Ben Gittleson participated in JDC Short-Term Service Program to Kazakhstan where he worked to help meet local Jewish community needs and forged connections with young Kazakhstani Jewish peers. Mitzner and Gittelson will join other young people effected by service programs and speak about how their service inspired their Jewish and wider-community involvement today.

The following JDC staff experts will appear at GA forums:

  • Steven Schwager, JDC’s CEO, will address GA participants at the plenary on Sunday, November 8, discussing JDC’s critical role in serving overseas Jewish communities in more than 70 countries today. Additionally, he will serve as moderator for the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues forum, where he serves as co-chair. The Task Force’s educational and economic development initiatives strengthen the Israeli Arab sector in Israel, resulting in thriving families, communities and a healthier economy.
  • Professor Jack Habib, director of the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute &mdash the premiere center for applied social research serving Israel and the Jewish world &mdash will speak on a panel discussing the challenges facing Ethiopian Israelis and what role should be played in response by the Israeli government, Diaspora philanthropy, and the community itself.
  • Dr. Liat Ben-David, JDC’s director of MAYDA: The Ashalim National Knowledge and Learning Center, will be part of an expert panel exploring the roles and responsibilities of Israeli and North American philanthropists in addressing the issue of Israel’s children at risk and will highlight how Ashalim’s vital programs help to close the gaps that threaten the future success of such children.

About JDC

JDC — the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee or “The Joint” — is the leading Jewish humanitarian organization, working in 70 countries to lift lives and strengthen communities. We rescue Jews in danger, provide aid to vulnerable Jews, develop innovative solutions to Israel’s most complex social challenges, cultivate a Jewish future, and lead the Jewish community’s response to crises. For over 100 years, our work has put the timeless Jewish value of mutual responsibility into action, making JDC essential to the survival of millions of people and the advancement of Jewish life across the globe.

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