On the Ground in Ukraine

This week, I returned from Ukraine after a week-long trip visiting JDC's programs, clients, and staff in both Odessa and Kiev. It was the first time I was personally exposed to the crucial work JDC does in the former Soviet Union.

November 28, 2014

photograph with JDC clients in Kiev.

This week, I returned from Ukraine after a week-long trip visiting JDC’s programs, clients, and staff in both Odessa and Kiev. It was the first time I was personally exposed to the crucial work JDC does in the former Soviet Union.

I have spoken many times to friends, family, and the American Jewish community at large about the challenges faced by Jews around the world. What I saw during my trip provided faces and voices to these people. I expected to meet with our clients, all of them in vulnerable situations, and feel grateful for the resources and opportunities I have in my life.

However, I was taken aback by the people I met who are constantly going above and beyond to do their part in strengthening the community. I’m not only speaking of the JDC staff and partners.

JDC clients continually open up their humble homes and share their painstaking stories. All whom I encountered were beyond grateful for the services they received, and possessed both the humility and dignity to understand that the best way they can help and contribute is by sharing their challenges and inspiring visiting colleagues and missions. Without many material resources, many of our clients still do whatever they can to support JDC and their community — even if it means showcasing their misfortune.

These intimate exchanges often left me speechless and in awe of the strength of character required to continuously acknowledge and confront ongoing life obstacles in the company of more fortunate people — and many times strangers.

These aspects have been unsettling and have caused me to question the extent of my commitment to my Jewish communities, both micro and macro, and assess my personal efforts beyond my work at JDC. These questions will stay with me as my reaction continues to evolve. I’m grateful for the opportunity provided to me by JDC, as well as the courage displayed by our dignified clients in Odessa and Kiev.

These experiences have challenged me to think in a more meaningful way about issues concerning my own Jewish identity and responsibility that have in turn changed how I view my work at JDC — from professional to personal.

JDC’s Outreach Coordinator.

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