Guarantors of Jewish Life: From Hungary to Moldova, Reflecting on JDC’s Ukraine Crisis Response
As a 2022 JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps (JSC) Fellow in Budapest, Hungary, Dan Alpert has been a firsthand witness to JDC’s Ukraine crisis response.
By Dan Alpert - JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps Fellow; Budapest, Hungary | April 28, 2023
As a 2022 JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps (JSC) Fellow in Budapest, Hungary, Dan Alpert has been a firsthand witness to JDC’s Ukraine crisis response. On recent trips to Moldova and Poland, Alpert met JDC staff and refugees, along with the community leaders saving lives each and every day. This experience moved him to think deeply about arevut — Jewish mutual responsibility — and how he can serve Jews in need, wherever they are.
If you go into the JDC-supported KEDEM JCC in Chișinău, Moldova, you’ll meet a woman named Evgenia who runs JDC’s call center. She helps organize efforts to give direction to and direct support for refugees hoping to leave Ukraine. Oftentimes, she’s the voice on the other end of the line when someone calls in need of assistance either inside Ukraine or en route during their journey out of the country. Watch her story here.
I had the chance to meet Evgenia in February, when I joined a group of young professionals on a JDC Entwine trip to Chișinău to learn about JDC’s ongoing Ukraine crisis response efforts. One of the things that stuck out to me about our time with Evgenia was her strong desire to give back after she and her family had received JDC assistance and support for many years.
Like Evgenia, many Jews around the world feel a great sense of responsibility to support one another. In Judaism, there’s a name for this concept — arevut. It’s a word that doesn’t translate perfectly into English, but in essence, an arev is a guarantor. In other words, arevut is a strong sense of mutual responsibility to help our neighbors and make the world a better place — a guarantee that we’ll help each other.
Growing up, I thought repeatedly about the importance of helping the Jewish community. Whether it was through youth groups or in professional experiences, I wanted to give back to the community that had given me so much. As I grew older, I learned of the opportunity to be a Jewish Service Corps (JSC) Fellow with JDC Entwine — an opportunity to serve in a Jewish community abroad and support their Jewish future. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to put my personal career on hold and do what I always wanted to do … give back to the Jewish community.
In 2022, I began my placement in Budapest, working with JCC Budapest and the broader Hungarian Jewish community. Serving as a JSC fellow has allowed me to explore how my own Jewish values guide my life. Each day, I’m reminded of this important concept of arevut as I witness the response of the Budapest Jewish community to the Ukraine crisis.
With support from JDC, JCC Budapest has been part of a coalition of Jewish organizations in the country that supports refugees fleeing the crisis in Ukraine. Since the beginning of the crisis, these organizations have created programming and provided shelter, food, and other necessities, along with providing psychosocial and post-trauma support.
An often-asked question is if our coalition only serves Jewish refugees. The answer is no. Our aim is simply to help those who need it the most, regardless of religion or background. Similarly, in Jewish communities near the border of Ukraine, the mindset is to help anyone that needs it.
By embracing arevut, we can truly make the world a better place, just like I’ve witnessed in Budapest, Chișinău, and Warsaw.
Our visit in Chișinău was one of two during this JDC-organized experience. We also went to Warsaw, Poland, and when I joined other young JDC leaders in both of these cities, it quickly became clear that arevut is central to their mission of supporting refugees. From day one, local volunteers were asking one question: How can we help?
In Chișinău, we met with individuals who’d recently fled Ukraine, and in Warsaw, we met with Ukrainian children at a winter-break camp. In both places, we saw firsthand how local volunteers gave their all to make sure that those fleeing Ukraine have a safe and supportive place to call home.
Witnessing this response, it was clear to me that Jews across the region have a strong sense of hope for the Jewish future and know that, no matter what, their Jewish values will always stand strong — values like arevut.
By embracing arevut, we can truly make the world a better place, just like I’ve witnessed in Budapest, Chișinău, and Warsaw. Our Jewish values uphold the work we do to create places where all are welcome, all are supported, and all are safe. We do this because we feel a great sense of mutual responsibility and a hope for a better future for all.
Dan Alpert graduated in 2021 from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland where he received a Bachelor of Science in marketing and minors in Jewish Studies and International Development and Conflict Management. He then went to work in the Maryland General Assembly focused on labor and transportation policy for a State Delegate.
Now, he serves as a JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps Fellow in Budapest, Hungary, working with JCC Budapest on overseas donor engagement and supporting refugee services for those fleeing Ukraine.
JDC Entwine is grateful to the generous supporters of the Jewish Service Corps Fellowship; Pears Foundation, Sandler Family, Soref Foundation, the W and E Kahane Family Foundation, William Donner, and the Wolf family.