At Rosh Hashanah, Natalia B., a 63-year-old widow in Sumy, Ukraine, reminds us that people should always live with hope. She says “we must believe in the good in this world, and in miracles.”
For Natalia, that miracle came through the Hesed social welfare center run by JDC in her community and the IFCJ Lifeline, a JDC operational partnership with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).
Ten years ago, Natalia and her husband Viktor’s only daughter died in a tragic accident. Natalia recalls: “I cried every day. The days were painfully long. Nothing could bring joy or even distract from thoughts about my daughter.”
Shortly after the death of their daughter, Natalia retired from working as an engineer at a metallurgical plant. She and her husband came to the Hesed, but in her grief, she didn’t get involved in the programs offered, and she wasn’t yet ready to meet people and build friendships.
Tragedy struck again three years ago when Viktor died, leaving Natalia completely alone. In her darkest moment, when she felt invisible and completely alone, the volunteers and staff at the Hesed saw her.
They provided her the support she needed – and continues to need – both financially and communally.
Natalia’s pension is only about $54 each month, not nearly enough to buy the food and medicine she needs to survive or pay the utility bills she needs to stay warm. Through the IFCJ Lifeline, however, Natalia is able to purchase the food and medicine she needs.
With the financial security provided by the IFCJ Lifeline and the community she’s become a part of at her local Hesed, she has found a renewed sense of hope, happiness, and purpose.
Putting into action the Jewish social value of gemilut hasadim – engaging in acts of lovingkindness – Natalia is now not only a recipient of care and services at the Hesed, she also volunteers there herself. She teaches classes through the women’s club, assists the social worker with client visits, and helps with Jewish holiday preparations.
And for Rosh Hashanah, Natalia is joining hundreds of volunteers across Ukraine and the former Soviet Union to help needy, elderly Jews celebrate the new year. Volunteers are visiting those who are homebound and helping to lead celebrations, including intergenerational concerts and festive meals at their local Heseds.
Across the FSU, thousands of elderly Jews are receiving extra food and traditional holiday fare, including apples and honey, through the IFCJ Lifeline and the Claims Conference, a major JDC partner. Efforts throughout the FSU to care for needy elderly, and build Jewish communal life, are also supported by the Jewish Federations, among so many others.
For Natalia – and countless others like her – the support and community found through the IFCJ Lifeline and JDC’s Hesed social welfare network are miracles, pure and simple.
Of her own experience, Natalia says, “In addition to vital help, I got the opportunity to communicate with others, and this helps me to be not alone. I can be useful to someone. I know that I can give someone warmth and joy. And this is very important for me. I am grateful to Hesed and appreciate everything that has been done for me!”