For a Friend in Need…

Poor Roma in Tiszabura, Hungary, receive a critically needed food and clothing package for the winter.

When you see a friend struggling, it’s hard not to lend a helping hand.

That’s why when JDC staff got an alarmed call from Tiszabura, an extremely poor village in north-east Hungary where JDC’s Women’s Health Empowerment Program has operated in the past, they just couldn’t sit by and wait.

The complete insolvency and financial breakdown of the local municipality meant that public services have been shut down in the village for over a year. The school and the kindergarten were closed indefinitely; subsidized public food services were suspended; and people could not get heating for their homes. The oncoming season would leave many families with small children vulnerable to cold and starvation.

JDC had previously organized Equal Chance Against Cancer mammography screening and awareness raising events for the large local Roma community, so they had a connection with the village and felt for the women who had been struggling without help.

The JDC staff immediately organized a clothing and food drive. A local leading financial investment company pitched in generously.

And, within just a few days JDC staff were driving up the village road to distribute food and warm clothes to the families in need—offering relief and lightening their spirits for the coming holiday season.

Song and Learning Bring Together Jews in Belarus

Motl Gordon, Director of the Eitan Educational Center at the Yesod JCC in St. Petersburg, Russia, hosts a Hevruta session in Minsk, Belarus, on Yiddish song.

What’s the sound of 300 Belarusian Jews singing a Yiddish song? The participants of the recent JDC-supported 4th Minsk Havruta found out firsthand when they showed up for a study session with fluent Yiddish speaker and informal education specialist Motl Gordon.

A Havruta is a social, interactive form of Jewish learning—basically, an opportunity for people to come together and teach one another about an interesting Jewish topic. It doesn’t have to be text-based, it doesn’t rely on any previous knowledge, and there aren’t any strict format rules for the seminars. Instead, it’s an opportunity to explore new ideas, debate, dance, and sing with new people who turn out to be interested in the same Jewish things you are.

In Minsk, Belarus, that’s something pretty special. And that’s why 300 Belarusian Jews of all ages came out for this year’s event, which featured 16 guest speakers from Minsk, Odessa, Moscow, and St. Petersburg teaching a broad variety of Jewish topics in 20 locations throughout Minsk.

The event was made possible by the invaluable help of volunteers from every institution of Jewish life in Belarus. Today, that includes Hesed welfare centers, Jewish Family Service (JFOS), the Emuna Jewish Community Center, and Hillel. Kudos to all on this enormously successful event!

Where East Meets West–Inside Jewish Turkey

Inside Jewish Turkey Panelists: (left to right) Sedat Behar, Illona Moaraf Fins, Evan Schultz (JDC Jewish Service Corps Fellow in İzmir, Turkey – 2003-04) and Chloe Markowitz (JDC Jewish Service Corps Fellow in İzmir, Turkey – 2006-07)

On Wednesday, August 10, 175 young Jewish professionals came together in Manhattan for JDC Dimensions Presents: Where East Meets West – Inside Jewish Turkey , an in-depth look at the Jewish community of Turkey, featuring young, authentic voices from Istanbul and İzmir.

One of the event chairs, Margalit Rosenthal, participated in Inside Jewish Germany & Turkey, a JDC overseas experience for young professionals, in March. She blogged about her impressions of the Turkish Jewish community on JDC: In Service this week.

Israeli Medical Team Gives Haitian Boy a Fresh Start

Luciano, 8, puts on his new prosthetic arm as Ulrich M., a technician from the Tel Hashomer/JDC/MDA team at HUEH, carefully observes.

When the startling earthquake shook Haiti last January, Luciano L., 8, was on the first floor of his family’s house, playing with his older brother. As the home collapsed, one of the large walls fell on him, crushing his right arm. The injury was so severe that his arm needed to be amputated, and while he received proper treatment and was lovingly cared for by his parents, he was distraught. When his parents heard that the physiotherapy team at the Tel Hashomer/JDC/MDA rehabilitation center at Haiti State University Hospital (HUEH) were fitting for prosthetic arms—a rare find—they rushed to get Luciano on the list.

Prosthetic arms, initially not as highly prioritized as prosthetic legs, are now becoming more commonly provided as a result of research showing the positive impact an artificial arm has on an amputees’ overall healing, functionality, and self-esteem.

Luciano was one of the first patients the team met with. And though he arrived frightened and confused for the three days of measuring, plastering, and fitting by the specialists, he eagerly took the physiotherapist’s training on how to use his new arm.

Today Luciano is back to playing with his brothers and friends and looking forward to starting school in September.

Thousands of Haredi Flock to Jerusalem Job Fair

Akiva, father of four, receives computer training at JDC’s Tevet employment initiative in Jerusalem.

This weekend over 4,000 ultra-Orthodox Israelis attended the Jerusalem employment fair JDC coordinated in partnership with the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministry of Labor, Trade, and Industry. 

JDC professional Eti Meller, who helped coordinate the event, was cited in a Jpost article: “If we knew there would be such an outcome, we would have brought more businesses,” she said. “This is an opportunity for employers to find high quality manpower, who really want to work.”

With an estimated 800,000 chronically unemployed, Israel is eager to create new employment opportunities and is partnering with JDC to provide job readiness skills to some of its more marginalized populations. JDC’s Tevet employment initiative, in partnership with the Government of Israel, helps break the cycle of poverty and dependency for the ultra-Orthodox, new immigrants, the disabled, young adults, and Israeli Arabs inIsrael.

Media Spotlight on JDC’s Helping Hand

A Nazi victim and JDC assistance recipient outside her home in Belarus. Photo by Sarah Levin.

We’re excited to share that JDC got a shout out in the media for reaching Jews living in some of the furthest corners of the globe.

Voices of America spotlighted JDC’s work assisting the elderly in Belarus, where only a handful of Jews remain in shtetls scattered across the country—less than 1% of the population that prospered there prior to World War II.

And the Washington Post published a Letter to the Editor responding to the “waning days” of Jewish gauchos in Argentina, who still remain very much alive for JDC. Like the rest of the Jewish community in that country reeling from the devastation caused by the economic crisis in 2001, JDC continues to support Argentina’s Jewish gauchos through these trying times.

A Blind Man Looking Deeper

Abbass and Al-Manarah provide blind Israeli Arab youth with hope and guidance, a sense of community and a path for personal and social change.


What would it be like to be a minority within a minority in Israel? Abbass Abbass, a legally blind Israeli Arab, knows firsthand—but he prefers to characterize himself as a person with unique abilities rather than “disabled.” And that perspective and indefatigable spirit led him to found Al-Manarah (Lighthouse) Association to improve the lives Arabs with disabilities in Israel.

A lawyer and social entrepreneur, Abbass is transforming a society by changing the way Israeli Arabs view people with disabilities. For members of this marginalized community within a marginalized community, Al-Manarah provides hope and guidance, a sense of community, and a path for personal and social change—and it is the go to address for Arab persons with disabilities in Israel today. 

Through a powerful combination of advocacy, education, and empowerment, Abbass is changing the way in which members of the Arab society in Israel view persons with disabilities. His philosophy of empowerment is the bedrock of his organization: “Rather than take life easy, I have to be the best, to excel, to stand out. … For a blind person to stand out, he must be the best.” 

Come hear advocate Abbass Abbass speak tonight at JDC NextGen and Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues joint event, Looking Deeper: Inside the Israeli Arab Community. KUSH, New York, at 7 pm.