Dispatch from Odessa: Winter is Coming

photo courtesy JDC (Odessa, December 2014)

By Gil Shefler Every Chanukah for the past two decades, a giant menorah has lit up the central square of the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, bringing a little festive cheer to Jewish and non-Jewish locals during the long winter nights. But this year’s holiday season may be a bit dimmer. Ukraine’s ongoing crisis has made the price of food, medicine, and utilities sky high while the conflict in the east has displaced large and growing numbers of people. With planned power outages and the mandated lowering of thermostats to a frosty 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the coming winter is bound to be one of the harshest in living memory for all Ukrainians, including hundreds of thousands of Jews. I caught a glimpse of these challenging times when I visited Odessa - Ukraine’s third-largest city - with my … [Read more...]

JDC Winter Relief Efforts Expanded in Ukraine

Family in Kiev; photo courtesy JDC

New York, New York, Dec. 8, 2014 - The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s annual Winter Relief program - delivering tons of heating fuel, warm bedding, and clothing to needy Jews across the former Soviet Union - has been critically expanded in Ukraine this year to respond to a harsh winter worsened by the country’s energy crisis, skyrocketing costs, ongoing unrest, and the growing needs of displaced Jews. JDC staff and professionals at the thirty two JDC-supported Hesed social welfare centers in Ukraine are providing extra winter supplies and services to poor elderly, including Nazi victims, struggling families, and displaced Jews who often cannot afford their utility bills or have direct access to heating supplies. “While winter relief is a lifeline for tens of thousands of Jews in … [Read more...]

With Russian Tanks in Ukraine and Winter Approaching, Jews Try to Subsist

From the city of Lugansk, Ukraine, grad missiles can be seen fired in the distance, graying the skies and causing worry for city residents, including many Jews who have remained there.

By Dovid Margolin In the November frost, two-dozen men gather for morning prayers at the only synagogue in Lugansk, Ukraine. They don tefillin, praying by the gray daylight shining in through the building’s windows and skylight. One man, Valodia, is fluent in Hebrew and reads from the Torah scroll for the quorum. Before the war, morning prayers were held at 7 a.m., but now, with a citywide curfew that ends at 6 a.m. - and the synagogue cold and dark because its electricity has still not been reconnected - prayers begin at 9. It doesn’t make too much of a difference to the men who have gathered; they’re mostly pensioners, and if the war has left them with anything, it’s time. After prayers, a kettle is placed on the fire, and the group sits together drinking hot tea, talking and warming … [Read more...]

One Year After Typhoon Haiyan

A Filipino family on the island of Lat-Asan posing by a catamaran donated by the American Joint Distribution Committee.

For Dennis Almorin and his family, Typhoon Haiyan meant losing everything, from their home to his fishing boat. In the aftermath, the Almorins had to borrow a friend’s boat, split the catch just to earn a living and scrape by on donated food and clothing. But today, nearly a year after the devastation, Dennis is the owner of a new fishing boat and is back to work through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and local partner NVC's program restoring employment to local fisherman on the island of Lat-Asan. Over the past 12 months, JDC has invested over $1.5m of $2.7 million raised from the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors in rebuilding classrooms and schools, restoring local fishing businesses, offering medical and psychological help, … [Read more...]

Moscow’s Nikitskaya JCC Renamed In Honor of Ralph I. Goldman

Moscow JDC_Ralph

October 22, 2014 - One of Moscow's largest Jewish community centers, the Nikitskaya, was renamed today in honor of Ralph I. Goldman, one of the Jewish world's most accomplished leaders who died, at 100, in Jerusalem two weeks ago. The institution - which opened in 2001 with support from the the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and caters to hundreds of members of the Russian capital's bustling Jewish community each month - was rededicated as the Ralph I. Goldman Nikitskaya Jewish Cultural Center in a ceremony on October 22. The Ralph I. Goldman Nikitskaya Jewish Cultural Center, located in a 19th century mansion in the center of Moscow, offers a wide array of activities to local Jews of all ages. One of its keystone programs is Tapuz nursery and pre-school, consistently ranked … [Read more...]

Birthright Israel Foundation Drops 27% in Private Support 2012 to 2013

Chronicle logo

According to the just released Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual rankings of the 400 charities that collect the most from private sources, Birthright Israel Foundation's private support for fiscal 2013 decreased 27.2% from fiscal 2012. UJA-Federation of New York's private support dropped 10.9% and Yeshiva University was down 12.1%. Overall the study found a 10.9-percent increase in money raised from 2012 to 2013 for more than 330 charities that reported contributions for both years. Jewish communal organizations listed include: Total Private Support fiscal 2013 % change from fiscal 2012 American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee* $311,992,238 +4.4% Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston* $225,445,590 +7.7% Jewish Communal Fund … [Read more...]

Our Years of Ralph

Ralph meeting with the PresenTense team in Jerusalem, October 2010; photo PresenTense.

By Aharon Horwitz There’s no way that we could not have met Ralph Goldman. In retrospect, it seems obvious: the days and evenings between 2008 and 2013, when Ralph would visit PresenTense, were destined by a higher power that saw fit to bridge two kindred generations. After all, more than anything those of us in the founding generation of PresenTense, and before that the Creative Zionist Circle, longed for the moral power and intellectual resourcefulness of those turn-of the century giants, the Zionist rebels like Katznelson, Ahad Ha’am, Jabotinsky, and the Jewish seers like Kaplan, Buber, and Rawidowicz. We diligently read their essays, debated their arguments, and reproduced their works online. We did it in formal sessions in the evenings, and in impromptu talks late into the night. In New … [Read more...]

Ralph Goldman, z”l

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) announced today the passing of Ralph I. Goldman, its beloved Honorary Executive Vice President, a builder of the State of Israel, and a global Jewish leader whose historic investments in Jewish life worldwide have ensured a strong, vibrant Jewish future for generations to come. Goldman, who was 100, died in Jerusalem, which had been his home for decades. “The profound sadness and deep sense of loss we feel today is indescribable: Ralph Goldman was a giant among Jewish leaders, dedicating his life and career to strengthening Israel and to ensuring the survival and vibrancy of Jewish people and communities worldwide,” said JDC President Penny Blumenstein and CEO Alan H. Gill. “A cornerstone of JDC’s global operations for more than four decades, … [Read more...]