ADDRESSING THE NEEDS OF JEWISH CHILDREN
The Former Soviet Union, home of the third largest Jewish Population in the world, presents some of American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's most urgent needs. Still emerging from 70 years behind the Iron Curtain, where Jewish expression was forbidden, remarkable strides are being made toward a Jewish Renaissance. Today though, JDC’s guidance and support is still desperately needed.
The nearly quarter million elderly Jews living in the FSU are dependent on JDC programs for basic life sustaining support — making elderly relief assistance our most urgent challenge. Without JDC’s help, these people who survived the hardships of World War II and the Nazi atrocities would be without adequate food, medicine, sufficient heat and often dignity.
Through the Children’s Initiative, the urgent needs of the youngest Jews are being addressed. For a great number of impoverished, at-risk children, essentials such as food, medical care, clothing and school books are out of their reach. JDC offers aid to these children — giving them hope for the future.
Renewal programs and efforts to build self-sufficient Jewish communities throughout the region are the other cornerstones of JDC’s work in the FSU. A broad-range of community-based activities ranging from educational programs for children and adults, community outreach and family camps to leadership training seminars and Jewish academic studies in universities are helping to develop the spirit of volunteerism while fostering Jewish identity.
After more than a decade of work in the FSU, remarkable progress has been made – and much more remains to be done.
Activities of the JDC in FORMER SOVIET UNION COUNTRIES
GENERAL ISRAEL ORPHAN HOME FOR GIRLS
It happened a long time ago, when Palestine was still a Turkish province. One day the late Rabbi David Weingarten, of blessed memory, was walking along the narrow streets of Jerusalem. It was the time when a typhoid epidemic was raging in Jerusalem, which took a heavy toll of lives.
He noted a young girl of about six leaning against a wall. There were no tears any more in her eyes, just an indescribable look of terror and bewilderment. The girl had lost her father and mother; both had died a short while before and there wasn't a soul around to take care of the child. He took the child to his house and she became part of the family. During the following days and weeks, people picked up more children and two small rooms had to be rented. In 1912 there was already a small building accommodating 50 orphan girls. Finally, in l956, with the help of American friends, a new edifice was erected which now houses 500 girls -- a model institution which provides warmth and loving care-physical and spiritual- from early childhood throughout the formative years until marriage.
G.I.O.H. sponsors the following programs (partial listing)
A Real Family Home
Several hundred orphan girls, living, learning and playing together with all their needs lovingly taken care of.
A Day-Care Center
Our little ones from ages 3-6 are supervised by a dedicated and devoted staff, with tender loving care.
A Complete Education
From a complete Elementary School program through High School - our staff offers academic, vocational and art courses, giving the child a well-rounded education.
Newly-arrived from underprivileged countries, find help and encouragement in our Home through the efforts of bilingual teachers who aid them in adjusting to their new homeland.
Extended Day Care Facilities
Where we take care of all the needs of the children : educational, medical, financial, etc., in their own home and surroundings. This is the ultimate in child care in Israel.
Visit the website: GENERAL ISRAEL ORPHAN HOME FOR GIRLS
FEEDING THE HUNGRY IN FORMER SOVIET COUNTRIES
Over the past year and a half, the dollar on the global financial market has dropped significantly against other currencies. For us as Americans, this doesn’t have a significant day to day impact on our lives, except for imported goods costing a bit more than they did when we had a more valuable dollar; but for the humanitarian work we do, it has had significant implications. A weaker dollar means increased cost to operate our soup kitchens. Two years ago, we were able to feed elderly people in our soup kitchens for about 82 cents a meal; today, the same meal costs us two dollars. We need to raise two dollars to do the same work that cost us 82 cents two years ago.
We are very grateful to all our friends who support us on a regular basis, but between the rising costs of food in the Former Soviet Union, the devaluation of the dollar, and the rising costs of gasoline to distribute food parcels, our resources have been wearing thinner and thinner. As we make headway in raising funds, we lose ground in costs. Your regular support means a great deal to us, and to the people we are seeking to help. As you sit around your tables this thanksgiving, we ask that as you thank God for your blessings, you remember our people, and make a prayer on their behalf.
THE ORPHANS PROJECT
This past July, I went to Israel to discuss the details of our participation with members of the Knesset’s (Israeli Parliament), social welfare lobby, in their orphans’ project. Before we become involved with any such undertaking, we check out all plans thoroughly. We met for several days, and found that what we were originally told was not the case at all.
Originally, we were informed that we were to assist in bringing Jewish orphans from Ukraine to Israel, where they would become Israeli citizens, and they would live in a “Boys Town” type, group home environment. When I went to Ukraine, they showed me orphans, so I assumed they had the orphans and they wanted our help in bringing them to Israel. During the meetings, they told us they didn’t have any orphans, and expected us to go and find them. This would be a monumental task beyond our resources. Next, we discovered the Ukrainian government would NEVER allow orphans to just be taken out of their country. They are concerned that unscrupulous people would take children and sell their organs on the international black market. Such things happen in the Former Soviet Union.
The most they would allow was for orphans to come to Israel on a two year study visa. We were informed that it would cost us $9000.00 per child to bring the children and provide for their needs. Thirty children to come for an education program would cost us $270,000.00. We realized right away that such a project was beyond our means, and might swallow up and destroy the work we are presently doing, so we declined the project. We spent the next several days in Israel, meeting with various people, and decided to do a project of our own.
We are planning to open CHEVRA ISRAEL. We believe we need to expand our work in Israel, but doing our kind of projects. We do not work with high overheads. Our current plan is to help subsidize soup kitchens that are currently in operation in Israel. One in Tel Aviv operates three days a week. We will pay for it to operate two additional days. We want to help holocaust survivors in Israel, but giving them supplemental income. As we raise more funds, we will expand the work we do in Israel as well. As for the orphans in Ukraine, we will do what we can to help them where they are, through soup kitchens and food and clothing distribution.
In September, I attended an international Russian Speaking congregations summit in Berlin, Germany, as an observer. We made many good contacts, and found ways we can help one another.
If you would like to help us with our projects in the Former Soviet Union or in Israel, please let us hear from you. In any case, we are living in very exciting times, and we have a fantastic opportunity to do a lot of good for a lot of people. I am thankful and grateful for your standing with us and praying for us, and for your support enabling us to carry out our work.
Thank you again for your help.
We need your help and covet your prayers.
Dr. Michael Schiffman
Executive Director, Chevra USA
In our recent letters we have reported about poor Jewish children, which are in desperate situations especially during this winter. Each month we are supporting them with necessary vitamins, baby food and other nutritional products. They also have a very big problem with clothing and shoes, as they are too expensive to get. We have prayed in this matter and thanks also to your help we were able to intervene in the most critical cases.
Two people from Chevra have bought winter outwear, jackets, shoes and distributed them amongst children in western Ukraine. It was a great joy for us to see the happiness on their faces. They could never afford for such things and this winter was especially long and severe.
Visit the website: FEED RUSSIAN JEWS
Former Soviet Countries In Which JDC Operates
NAME CHANGE TO CHEVRA USA
In September, 2004, Anshe Rachamim officially changed its name to Chevra USA. The reasons for the change were that our parent organization in Krakow (see picture) is called Chevra International, and it was getting confusing for people that we are the same organization and have two separate names. Our branches on the field are all known as Chevra; Chevra Ukraine, Chevra Russia, Chevra Belarus, etc. Becoming Chevra USA makes it easier for people to make the connection.
A second reason for the change is that it is easier for people to write a check to Chevra than to Anshe Rachamim. Chevra means friendship. We will still be sending out mailings with Anshe Rachamim stationary until it is used up, and checks can still be made out to Anshe Rachamim or Chevra, but we will be phasing out the Anshe Rachamim name over the next couple of months. We hope and pray you won’t phase out your prayers or support of our work as we go through this change.
Today, throughout the former Soviet Union, thousands of Jewish people are subsisting in incredibly desperate situations. Many are survivors of the Nazi Holocaust of World War II. Multitudes are facing persecution being denied jobs, housing, food, and medical care. Chevra USA is dedicated to giving humanitarian aid.
It is estimated there are between five-hundred-thousand to one-and-a-half million survivors of the Holocaust still alive today. Each month about one percent of these people pass on. Too often, their last years have been spent in nearly the same conditions in which they survived in the camps. These who suffered so much, continue to suffer---don’t they deserve better? We can help ease their last years. We can do something to care for their daily needs, and that we are supporting them in tangible ways.
Currently, a fleet of trucks and vans take food, clothing, and other supplies around the area of Poland, Ukraine, Russia, and other countries of the former Soviet Union. There, local distribution centers give out much needed food, clothing, and medicine. Thirty-two soup kitchens across the former Soviet Union provide daily meals for 20,000 to 50,000 people per month. The quality of goods and services dispensed is so high that strict security measures are in place to avoid raids by criminals that might hijack the goods. Twelve of the largest supermarket chains in Poland, Russia, and Ukraine supply the ministry of Chevra with bread, meat, vegetables, and other goods.
Since 1992, Chevra has provided practical everyday help by operating soup kitchens, distributing food and medicine, and giving out clothing to needy Jewish people and others from its operations center in Krakow, Poland. Doing Tzedakah (charitable acts) is a fundamental Jewish, as well as Christian principle. Thousands of Holocaust survivors are living out their final years in terrible conditions, lacking food, adequate housing and warmth, clothing, and medical help.
We have the privilege of helping people who have suffered more than their share. Please join Chevra in doing Tzedakah---acts of charity to people who have already lived through the horrors of human inhumanity.
We need to do more! We are ready to increase the number of soup kitchens and drastically expand the food distribution program, but more trucks will be needed which will increase our labor, maintenance, and operating costs. Your partnership with Chevra will enlarge the amount of humanitarian aid given in helping extend our hands even further to those who deserve it. Besides the thousands of Holocaust survivors, there are many Jewish people who face prejudice and persecution. Your gift will help us reach out to them and let them know there are people who care about their well being.
ISRAEL AND ALIYAH
Jewish People living in the former Soviet Union have had a very difficult life of persecution and deprivation. For a Jew, aliyah (the right of every Jew to return to Israel, their ancient homeland as an immediate citizen) is a dream and a hope of a better life. Depending on Israel’s political climate of unrest verses various degrees of peacefulness, the amount of Jews returning can be a great flood to but a trickle. This present situation in Israel which is filled with dangers of terrorism and the Intifada has led to a decrease in the number of those emigrating from the former Soviet Union to Israel. However, small groups of Jews are continuing to follow their dream, and Chevra must help them.
The issuance of a passport costs about $100, but for most eking out just $50-$100 per month to support their family, a passport for them and every member of their family is out of the realm of possibility. This is where the aliyah assistance program of Chevra comes to the rescue. We assist all Jews seeking to make aliyah by transporting them to boats or airports. This most often involves helping them with locating and collecting all their personal information and documents necessary for filling out the paperwork to acquire their passports, and any other red tape they might encounter. The cost per person can very depending on the availability and location of their personal documents due to it being lost or destroyed during World War I, World War II, and/or up to this present day’s danger of being a Jew. Therefore, the cost can be from $300-$400 per person.
We also have established homes in Israel for elderly holocaust survivors without family because of their situation. They endured horrifying suffering and are now at the end of their lives. Wherever possible we want to help them live out the remainder of their time on this earth with comfort, peace, and hopefully some joy, instead of poverty, fear, and sorrow. The cost of this key program for each house is about $2000 a month to maintain. Will the compassion of kind people be found meeting this need? It is our hope and goal that the answer to this is yes with 100 of these houses in operation in the near future.
Visit the website: FEED RUSSIAN JEWS
REVIVAL OF JUDAISM IN FORMER SOVIET COUNTRIES
While Jewish life in the countries of the former Soviet Union has existed for centuries, religious persecution reached new depths under 72 years of Communism. Jews who tried to uphold their faith and their traditions were harassed and often arrested, tortured and condemned to hard labor or executed.
The remaining communities were decimated by World War II - bombardment, famine and, above all, the Holocaust wiped out three million Soviet Jews and left the rest shattered and forlorn. By the end of the 20th Century, Jewish life had all but ceased, and even those few who practiced Judaism in secret were left with little knowledge of their rich cultural and religious heritage.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, relocated from Soviet Russia in 1927. From 1941 he directed a vast clandestine network of Jewish education, prayer services and humanitarian aid from his base in New York. Jewish activists risked their lives to keep the embers of Judaism alive by performing ritual circumcisions in secret, smuggling in haggadahs and matzoh at Passover, delivering kosher food to the starving and other acts of courage and compassion.
The collapse of the Soviet system offered the third-largest Jewish population in the world the opportunity to worship freely for the first time in seven decades. More than 1 million Soviet Jews left for Israel and the United States, leaving at least 2 million to rebuild the ruins of Jewish community life with generous support from the Diaspora.
Veterans of the Underground who remained, Jewish leaders who emerged after the fall of Communism and dozens of rabbis sent by CHAD LUBAVITCH began building a new infrastructure of synagogues, community centers and day schools throughout the vast territory stretching through ten time zones. The latent embers kept alive by the Jewish underground movement burst into flames to restore literally hundreds of Jewish communities.
In November 1998, leaders of these dispersed communities recognized the need for a united and efficient umbrella group. They pooled their professional, financial and technical resources to create the FEDERATION OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES.
There is a window of opportunity in these Jewish communities -- a rare and time-limited opportunity -- to repair a fissure in the generational linkage in one of the world's major Jewish communities. FJC is taking advantage of this opportunity through a diverse array of programs and venues.
From Moscow, the Federation administers a variety of established funds for its Member communities, dedicated to community development, rebuilding Jewish institutions and creating infrastructure and programs. The central administration in each country represents its members in governmental relations, with emphasis on upholding religious freedoms and restitution of Jewish communal properties.
The FJC organization in each member country works to maintain good relations with the other practicing Faiths, while the central office represents member interests in international forums. Providing humanitarian aid, Jewish education, culture and religion is a primary mission of FJC regional and local communities.
FEDERATION OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES
LIST OF COMMUNITIES
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