As a wave of dangerous winter weather continues to grip Eastern Europe and parts of the former Soviet Union, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has activated its emergency winter response system to supplement the care it already provides to tens of thousands of Jewish elderly and needy children at this time of year. In addition to the heating fuel, blankets, warm jackets, clothes and boots JDC has provided for 20 winters in the past, JDC staff are currently providing extra heating supplies and food to those who cannot leave home and called to check in on those who need additional medical care in some of the hardest hit areas like the Balkans and Ukraine.

“We’ve been able to mobilize quickly and respond to this latest deep freeze because emergency protocols are inherent to our historic winter relief program. For these Jews, many of whom have no one else to turn to, we are there to ensure an extra lifeline and much-needed sense of community at this time,” said JDC CEO Steven Schwager.

In Bulgaria, temperatures hit record lows and Sophie, an elderly Sofia resident, was found by her JDC social worker in her kitchen—the only room in her small apartment with central heating—fully clothed in a winter hat, a heavy sweater, and gloves. JDC provided Sophie with two electric heaters and will cover her electricity bills for January and February—costs that would consume 60% of her meager monthly pension. This emergency assistance supplements the daily hot meal and medicines Sophie regularly receives from JDC.

Every year, in addition to winter relief, JDC provides a variety of welfare assistance and Jewish community connections to needy and vulnerable Jews throughout Europe and the former Soviet Union.