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

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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

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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...]

Limmud FSU Belarus Festival Salutes JDC’s Ralph Goldman’s 100th Birthday

Opening Gala Limmud FSU Belarus 2014

At the opening gala of Limmud FSU's Festival in Vitebsk (Belarus), the organization saluted Ralph Goldman on the occasion of his 100th birthday. Those in attendance responded with enthusiastic applause and the singing of happy birthday in 3 languages - English, Hebrew and Russian. In remarks, Chaim Chesler - founder of Limmud FSU - thanked Goldman for his support of Limmud FSU since its founding nine years ago. At the time, Goldman stated, "Limmud FSU is the best way to attract young unaffiliated Russian-speaking Jews around the world." The gala, held this afternoon at the National Theatre of Vitebsk, was attended by 700 participants. Joining the celebration was Israel's Ambassador to Belarus Yosef Shagal; Chair of the Union of Belarusian Jewish Public Organizations Boris Gersten; and … [Read more...]

Even in Siberia, It’s Never Too Late for a Jewish Awakening

Participants in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Family Camp reading from a Torah scroll in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk in August 2014; photo by Roman Ibragimov.

By Elaine Berke JNS.org Siberia is not known for its welcoming appeal. But in 2005, I stood for the first time in the warm glow of a small group of eager Jewish students in Khabarovsk, a remote Siberian town on the border with China, and asked how many of them had a bar or bat mitzvah. Two raised their hands. While many said they would have liked to have celebrated that Jewish rite of passage, they felt too old to do so. Yet three weeks ago on Shabbat - nine years later - I stood in awe as more than 70 Jews from across this vast region of Russia recited prayers, read Torah, and learned about Judaism at a hotel in Novosibirsk, the unofficial capital of Siberia. They were participants in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Family Camp, a program I founded together with the American Jewish Joint … [Read more...]