This Rosh Hashanah, thousands of poor, elderly Jews across the former Soviet Union (FSU) will receive extra food and traditional holiday fare, including apples and honey, to celebrate the Jewish New Year. The special Rosh Hashanah aid – provided by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and its partners, the Claims Conference, and the IFCJ Lifeline, an operational partnership with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) – will be distributed throughout the region.

“We’re proud that we can make the Jewish New Year a bit sweeter for poor, Jewish seniors in the former Soviet Union. At this time of reflection for the Jewish community, when we note the challenges and opportunities before us, we urge others to join us in remembering these Jews in our holiday wishes and to work with us and our partners to alleviate their suffering,” said David Schizer, JDC CEO. “It’s heartening that Jewish volunteers and communities in a region where Jewish life was almost decimated are at the forefront of efforts to celebrate Jewish life and care for the neediest. We wish them, and Jews around the world, Shanah Tovah—may it be a year of health and happiness for us all.

At 63 years old, life for Natalia B. has been a series of tragedies between the loss of her only daughter in an accident and her beloved husband years later, her only family left in the world. And yet the support she receives from the IFCJ Lifeline, including her Rosh Hashanah aid package, has made all the difference to the retiree who must live on less than $55 a month, reminding her she is not alone and has a Jewish community to care for her. That positive connection has inspired Natalia to be an active volunteer in her local Hesed social welfare center in Sumy, Ukraine, where she prepares Jewish New Year events for other seniors.

In addition to the holiday treats and extra food that vulnerable seniors will receive this High Holiday season, they will also participate in local holiday activities including concerts, games, cooking workshops, and cultural performances. The gatherings are held at JDC’s network of Hesed social welfare centers and Jewish community centers throughout the region. Homebound seniors will receive visits from volunteers to help celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

Among the Rosh Hashanah events JDC is organizing, in Ukraine, volunteers in Odessa will visit homebound and elderly Jews served by the local Hesed welfare center, and the Nikolaev Jewish Community Center will host a Rosh Hashanah Shabbat for elderly community members. Similarly, in Belarus, homebound Hesed social welfare clients will be visited by volunteers for at-home celebrations in Minsk, while the Grodno Hesed social welfare center will host a multigenerational celebration in the city’s Great Choral Synagogue.