In Eastern Ukraine, Glimmers of Hope Emerge

Winter relief 2 Ukraine

From JDC's Field Blog As Ukraine’s crisis continues, marked this past weekend by dozens of deaths in Sea of Azov coast city of Mariupol, JDC doubled down on its efforts to care for the most vulnerable Jews still living in the conflict-laden eastern part of the country. As indiscriminate artillery fire slammed into a market, schools, homes, and shops in the city, JDC’s local Hesed social welfare center, in cooperation with JDC’s office in Dnepropetrovsk, engaged in round-the-clock monitoring of the nearly 600 Jews it aids in the city as well as the general Jewish population. Among the poor elderly and families JDC cares for, homecare, medicine, and food services continue uninterrupted, and new needs that have emerged after the weekend attack are being addressed. As an example, JDC will … [Read more...]

Refugees Themselves, East Ukraine Chabad Emissaries Strive On

A Chanukah meal for families in Mariupol; its Jewish community, including a kindergarten and daily minyan at synagogue, continue to function despite the war.

By Dovid Margolin [This is the second of two articles on Jewish life in war-torn eastern Ukraine. The first, "Scattered Among States, Donetsk Jewish Community Inches Into 2015," can be found here.] The fighting was heavy when Maya and her family fled this summer from Lugansk, Ukraine. When she recently returned after three months in Moscow, her pantry was empty. Hungry neighbors had raided her home, taking any food products they could get their hands on. Canned goods, preserves, tea; all of it was gone. Nothing was spared, not even a few bunches of dill she had been drying to use for seasoning. “The only thing left in her kitchen were two forks,” recalls Svetlana, a friend of Maya’s who works for the Lugansk Jewish community, and asked that she be identified by a pseudonym due to the … [Read more...]

JDC & Mafteach Host International Conference on Haredi Employment

Experts from around the world are participating in a 3-day international conference in Jerusalem this week focusing on empowering Haredi Jews through employment and job training. The event - hosted by the Mafteach employment center network, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and the government of Israel ­ will offer Haredi community leaders, educators, politicians, and employers a venue to discuss ways of reducing poverty in Haredi society by helping individuals find jobs while taking into account religious sensitivities. Topics on the conference’s agenda include Yeshiva accreditation, culturally sensitive employment screenings and a comprehensive examination of the future of Haredi employment policy. Participants will also go on site visits where they will meet with Haredi … [Read more...]

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...]