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 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...]

JDC Steps Up Emergency Ukraine Response

Destruction in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, near Donetsk; photo by Rachel Calman/JDC.

As the crisis in Ukraine worsens, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has stepped up its emergency response as more Jews flee cities in eastern Ukraine and critical aid is delivered to those who stay behind in areas of unrest. The organization has been providing a robust emergency response for Ukraine’s most vulnerable Jews since the crisis began. JDC has provided a comprehensive aid program to more than 1,000 Jews who have fled violence in some areas of eastern Ukraine and found new homes in places like Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, Odessa and even Rostov in Russia. This includes accommodation and rental subsidies, food and clothing, Jewish community connections like family summer camps, and post-trauma counseling services. Through its network of Hesed social welfare … [Read more...]

Szarvas @ 25: A Jewish Camp, Fueling Europe’s Jewish Engine

I Love Szarvas

By Diego Ornique For Europe’s Jewish communities, facing rising anti-Semitism and economic decline, the last three decades of achievement in rebuilding Jewish life could be easily forgotten. But in rural Hungary, more than 1,300 young Jews from twenty plus countries are enthusiastically exploring Jewish culture, customs, and history all while playing sports, gathering around bonfires, and raiding the canteen for candy and ice cream. This seeming oasis - business as usual during the 25th anniversary summer session of the JDC-Lauder International Jewish Summer Camp at Szarvas - stands in the face of those who doubt a Jewish future in Europe. So what is it about the Szarvas experience that is emblematic of the revival of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe, especially after the decimation … [Read more...]

In Israel, What Community Means

Alan Gill July 2014

by Alan H. Gill July 29, 2014: As the war against Hamas continues - with more lives tragically lost, continuous rocket attacks, terrorist infiltration attempts, and ceasefires that come and go - I want to share with you three scenes from the last several days here that underscore, for me, the meaning of community and resilience during wartime ***************************** As any of you have been to Tel Aviv know, parking is a difficult business, to say the least. If you don't have a private parking space in your apartment building, you often have to circle on the streets for a long time to find a spot nearby. So when I was walking down the street late last night in Tel Aviv, I saw a car that looked like it had been abandoned, covered in rotting fruit that had fallen from the tree above. I … [Read more...]

Delivering Hope to Jews Fleeing, and Staying, in Eastern Ukraine

Even amidst the ongoing crisis, a little boy finds comfort in a new stuffed animal (May 2014); courtesy JDC.

by Ofer Glanz When an endless stream of breaking news competes for our limited time and attention, some stories fall between the cracks - like that of the war in Eastern Ukraine, afire with constant shelling, electricity cuts, shortages of food and medicine, and widespread unrest. Three Jewish women’s lives were cut short last month in this region. Did you know? Svetlana and Anna Sitnikov, a 57-year-old grandmother and her 31-year-old daughter, were killed by artillery fire when they went shopping for shoes in Lugansk, a city fought over by rebel and government forces. Larisa Faschuk, 75, died on her way to buy groceries in a separate shelling incident in the same town a few days later. They joined the growing number of civilian casualties in Ukraine’s ongoing crisis, a terrible toll … [Read more...]

From HS Students, to Foundations, to Global Organizations, the Jewish World Mobilizes

On July 7th, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge and the Jewish world immediately mobilized to provide a range of services to soften the war’s impact, particularly on the lives of children and families, but also to assist those who are risking their lives in defense of Israel. Following are just some of the many initiatives underway (culled from list-servs of the various organizations, July 25th). Alexander Muss High School in Israel Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI) students and staff helped raise $2,000 in a one-day drive for food and supplies which were delivered to IDF soldiers. The drive was initiated by AMHSI teens, who are spending six weeks in Israel this summer living on AMHSI's Hod Hasharon campus, where they are on a study and travel program learning about Jewish … [Read more...]

The Jewish World Responds: Better Together

JDC Better Together

These photos showcase Better Together, a JDC program serving children in disadvantaged Ashkelon neighborhoods. During this time of crisis, Better Together is operating in community centers and shelters, working with at-risk children to provide them with a respite from the stress of Operation Protective Edge and with daily activities and program. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee benefits from centralized emergency fundraising coordinated by the Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with the Reform and Conservative movements. … [Read more...]