October 30, 2009

Building Bridges Through the Women's Health Empowerment Program

The latest briefing from Steve Schwager, CEO

In today’s world, opposing sides often fight out their differences on political stages and battlefields around the globe. But JDC’s non-sectarian programs create bridges between people who have lived on irreconcilably different sides of a conflict. One such bridge was a remarkable event that took place earlier this month in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH), where over 3,000 Muslims, Jews, Serbs, and Croats came together to walk against a common enemy—breast cancer—that kills more than 410,000 women and men around the globe each year.

This second annual Race for the Cure in BH was organized through JDC‘s Women’s Health Empowerment Program (WHEP) and its partner, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and it marked the sixth year of JDC’s partnership with Komen to promote the early detection of breast cancer in overseas communities.

WHEP was the brainchild of the late Marcia Presky z”l, who was the Director of our International Development Program, until her untimely death in November 2005. The partnership with Susan G. Komen evolved after JDC initiated work in Israel in 2000 by bringing together Israeli and Palestinian women struggling with the disease and providing them with psychosocial support in Israel. WHEP is also active in Russia, Hungary, and was launched this year in Montenegro.

October 28, 2009

Michael Steinhardt Joins Board of JDC's Taub Center

New York, NY, October 26, 2009–  Michael Steinhardt, one of the leading American Jewish philanthropists, has joined the Board of Directors of the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, announced Professor Dan Ben-David, the Center’s Executive Director. The Center was established in 1982 by American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

The Taub Center is one of Israel’s most prestigious think-tanks. It provides the country's leading policy makers and general public with overarching socio-economic perspective, together with long-term strategic analyses and appraisals of policy options in the economic and social spheres. The Center operates in concert with JDC's work strengthening vulnerable populations in Israel. It is named in honor of philanthropist and civic leader Henry Taub of Tenafly, NJ.

“Congratulations to the Taub Center on this prominent appointment! Michael Steinhardt is credited with some of the most challenging and innovative Jewish endeavors in recent years, including MAKOR and as one of the founders of Birthright Israel. Steinhardt's original thinking will challenge many of the social conventions in Israel and bring fresh and unconventional options to the table,” said Steve Schwager, JDC’s Chief Executive Officer.

October 26, 2009

For Kate, Scholarship Trumps Every Hardship

Six years ago, young Ekaterina Gudkova (“Kate” to her loved ones) lived in a modest but comfortable apartment with her family in Rustavi, Georgia. There was a kitchen and a private bath, as well as a piano and other precious possessions that had been in the family for years. Suddenly Kate’s childhood world was stripped from her when crushing debts forced the family to sell their belongings and move.

Today Kate is 15 and lives with her mother, Nina, and her grandmother, Vilgemina, in a two-room dormitory apartment also in Rustavi. Past comforts are a memory. The building is in serious disrepair, missing doors and windows. The communal areas reek of the sole, unsanitary toilet serving each floor of 10 apartments; only a makeshift curtain provides privacy. The tap near the toilet is the only source of water for the entire floor.

The small room of their dorm is also missing an outer wall, leaving it exposed to the elements.

“In winter it is extremely cold,” Kate writes. “We heat the facility with a wood-burning stove, and since wood cost a lot, my granny and I collect pieces from the forest nearby. In winter, I do my homework wrapped up in plaid to keep warm.”

October 23, 2009

The Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship - A One of a Kind Experience

Yes you can.  You can be the one.

We are currently recruiting for the 2010–2011 Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship (RIG) -- the premiere opportunity for engaging young Jewish leaders in the work of the world’s largest Jewish humanitarian aid organization.

The Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship (RIG ) is awarded to one person annually and is a unique, paid, professional development opportunity to work in overseas locations where JDC is active, and engage with the inner workings of the world’s largest Jewish humanitarian aid organization.

October 21, 2009


We would like to thank everyone who joined us
in New York City on October 20 for the
JDC Ambassadors Circle Global Symposium. 

The afternoon was a great success and we are glad that so many were able to join us. 
More pictures to come...

October 20, 2009

JDC Program Update: Tunisia

The latest news from our programs in Tunisia:

Welfare Programs

After a long search to fill an aching vacancy, the Jewish Community of Tunis was finally able to employ a very capable person to look after the needs of the elderly survivors. JDC then sent a professional social worker from Marseilles to Tunis for a training and supervision visit.

Most of the elderly Jews in Tunis are living alone without any educational background or conventional work experience (some have lived as professional beggars). Given their nearly total destitution on the one hand and rising living costs on the other, JDC and the Community strive to improve their modest living standards in any possible way. Thanks to two special donations, we were able in the past year to raise their monthly cash assistance by 20 percent and to finance certain improvements in their living conditions.

October 18, 2009

Masira - A Journey

In line with its mission of developing social services for Israel's vulnerable populations, JDC-Israel invests approximately $10 million annually in the development of social services for Israeli Arabs, Druze and Bedouins across every JDC-Israel Division (with the exception of the Immigrant Integration Division). 

For Israel’s Arab disabled population, one program that JDC has established is Masira (“journey” in Arabic), an initiative to improve and advance the status and integration of people with disabilities in Arab society in Israel.

Video by JDC-Israel, the Unit for Disabilities and Rehabilitation.

Since 2006, Masira has made a deep impact in Israel’s Arab communities. Created to help overcome the societal stigmas Israeli-Arabs face in their own communities, and in general society, the program now operates 15 programs in 20 towns and villages, serving some 4,000 disabled adults and 130 professionals working with the disabled.

October 16, 2009

"A Working Model"

From The Jerusalem Post
by Sam Ser
October 15, 2009

In their down time, the unemployed play charades. They laugh, they mingle, they pour each other coffee. But they also dress in formal office attire and carry copious notes from their latest meetings. After all, just because they don't have professions doesn't mean they can't be professional.

Their coffee break over, a group of participants in the latest STRIVE employment program file into a classroom to simulate a confrontation with an employer. Miri, a tall and plump woman in her late 20s, plays a nurse who has administered the wrong medication to a child in her care.

"How could you have made such a grievous error?!" barks an instructor, playing the role of the supervisor in a scolding via telephone. Miri refuses to admit her mistake and demands a face-to-face meeting to review the evidence, as her "boss" becomes increasingly agitated. A two-week suspension had been in the cards - and, the boss hints, avoidable had Miri handled this correctly - but now she is a whisker away from an outright dismissal.

After a heated exchange, the instructor steps out of character and turns to the class, asking, "How could Miri have done that better?"

Miri and her classmates have been in this kind of situation before - and usually come out of it badly. The goal of today's class is to learn how to communicate in a manner that reflects responsibility and character, and to learn as well how to defuse an explosive workplace situation or prevent one altogether. Some of the students need to learn how to defend themselves without becoming defensive. Others need to learn how to stand up for themselves. And others are still working on not simply giving up and walking away from a job that will feed their families.

"What we're trying to do is to get people to stop saying, 'The system screwed me,' and start taking control of their lives," explains Naomi Krieger, STRIVE's general manager.

October 14, 2009

Reflections on Moscow 20 Years Later...

The latest briefing from Steve Schwager, CEO

I flew to Moscow last week. And as is so often the case these days, today’s column was written on the long flight home. I don’t really mind flights; no meetings, no telephones, and no schedules, but lots of time to mull things over and gather together my thoughts and impressions.

This quick trip was an opportunity to reflect on all that has happened economically—and more importantly, Jewishly—over the last twenty years in Moscow. Americans tend to have very short memories, but those of us involved with FSU Jewry recognize that we have been partners in a modern miracle.

On my first trip to Moscow many years ago, I stayed in a Russian-style hotel, the COSMOS, which had been built for the Soviet equivalent of the World’s Fair. Checking into the hotel was an experience. I approached the counter, announced that I had a reservation, and produced a written confirmation. The clerk behind the counter dismissed the paper I had presented and took out a huge handwritten ledger, searching page by page for my name. After 15 minutes, he finally conceded that I actually did have a reservation and gave me the card to enter my room. I went up to my room and unpacked. The bed felt like it had come from a summer camp; the towels were of various patterns; and, of course, there was no hot water.


October 12, 2009

JDC and Komen Second Annual Race for the Cure in Bosnia and Herzegovina

On October 3rd, 2009, JDC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure held the Second Annual Race for the Cure in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sponsored by JDC's Women's Health Empowerment Program (WHEP) and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, this year’s Race was an opportunity to celebrate life, to walk together and spread awareness about breast cancer in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The community had the opportunity to rejoice with breast cancer survivors and honor those who have lost their battle with the disease.

Video by Jennifer Jensen, Susan G. Komen for the Cure

The first Race for the Cure, honoring Susan G. Komen’s 25th RFTC Anniversary, was held in October 2008 with over 2,500 people participating. The Race was covered by all media outlets, and helped to raise awareness and to openly discuss this issue. All proceeds from the Race have provided more than 600 free mammogram checkups for women with no health insurance.

Video from the First Annual Race for the Cure in Sarajevo


October 11, 2009

The Associated and JDC in Ashkelon: PACT Field Update

The latest update from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore's Israel and Overseas Blog features a report on a JDC program focusing on Ethiopian-Israeli children, Parents and Children Together (PACT).   

A literacy enrichment program, PACT assists more than 10,000 Ethiopian-Israeli preschoolers throughout Israel to acquire Hebrew language skills and minimize gaps between them and their veteran Israeli peers while working with their parents to acclimate to Israeli society. 

Check it out THE ASSOCIATED & JDC in Ashkelon: Pact Field Update

October 9, 2009

JDC Mission to Argentina and Uruguay

Spaces are open for the
JDC Mission to Argentina and Uruguay.

December 14-17, 2009

Join us for a wonderful visit to two extraordinary and vibrant Jewish communities of South America.

Mission Highlights:
  • See the sights of Montevideo and Buenos Aires, including the Plaza de Mayo, San Telmo and Recoleta neighborhoods
  • Meet with the Jewish leadership of Argentina and Uruguay
  • See JDC programs in the region including Baby Help, Le Dor va Dor Elderly Home and the Ariel Job Center
  • Center in Buenos Aires and the Uruguay Jewish Old Age Home
  • Visit AMIA, (Mutual Israelite Argentina Association) Argentina’s central Jewish institution

For more information please contact Michael Novick at michael.novick@jdcny.org.

October 7, 2009

Eshet Chayil: Helping Immigrant Women Achieve Financial Independence

High unemployment rates among women in Israel's Ethiopian and Kavkazi communities have led to widespread poverty and social alienation among these immigrant groups. Cultural differences, child-care responsibilities, language difficulties, and a lack of workplace skills – rather than actual potential – all represent barriers to employment. Yet, entering the workforce can contribute greatly to women’s integration into Israeli society. Workforce participation can expose them to the wider community, aid them in learning Hebrew, transform their self-image, and improve their families’ chances of becoming financially stable.

The Eshet Chayil (Woman of Valor) program helps Ethiopian and Kavkazi women secure and maintain employment by creating a complete support framework to overcome the barriers preventing their integration into the job market. This includes addressing issues such as psychological readiness for work, family adjustment, employers’ expectations, and interview skills. Participants also benefit from emotional support, help in child-care arrangements, and opportunities to improve their Hebrew skills.

The program operates in three stages: job-readiness workshops; individual mentoring; and an Eshet Chayil Job Club, which provides ongoing support to employed program graduates, motivating them to remain and advance in the workplace.


October 6, 2009

JDC Ambassadors Circle Global Symposium

There’s still time to join us for this exclusive briefing opportunity on the status of Jewish Communities and JDC’s work around the world. The symposium will help create a deeper understanding of the most critical issues on the global horizon.

JDC Ambassadors Circle Global Symposium
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
New York City

Featuring updates on:

Israel’s Greatest Challenges
Jewish Horizons in the Former Soviet Union
Working with the Next Generation of Argentina’s Jews
The Latest from JDC in Odessa
JDC’s New Initiative for Disabled Israelis
JDC’s Global Strategic Vision

For more information please contact Rachel Rosenthal at ambassadors@jdc.org or call (212) 885-0876

October 5, 2009

'Not So Lost in Translation'

Suzanne Baumgarten, a participant on a recent JDC Short Term Service program to Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine shares her thoughts and impressions. 

From the Cornell Daily Sun
Column: Culturally Disinclined
October 2, 2009
By Suzanne Baumgarten

Apparently, people over 70 years old can sing. I don’t mean sing a little tune — I mean opera singer status. There’s this one particular woman who solos every once in a while, and when she opens her mouth, she really belts it out, singing with every bone in her body, every muscle, every organ.

Of course, I can’t understand the words these women are singing because they are in Russian. Or they could be in Ukrainian. These women are members of a choir that I saw perform at a hesed in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, during my trip there this summer. A hesed, which means “mercy” in Hebrew, is a community center for Jews in the community that offers everything from social activities, to food and clothing to the less fortunate. These choir members were women who were in their sixties and seventies. They were wearing long green skirts and matching blouses and looked like there was nothing they’d rather be doing in the world.

When we first arrived in Ukraine, I was shocked that besides the impressive synagogue and never-ending river, there are really very few “attractions” in Dnepropetrovsk. For instance, in the cities in which I had spent time up until my visit to Ukraine, I had left them with a clear idea of the main attractions: Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in New York, The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. I do not have a similar list regarding Dnepropetrovsk.

What I ultimately realized, by the end of my visit, is: The people, not tourist attractions, are the essence of the Ukrainian culture.


October 2, 2009


To make a donation, please go to our DONATE NOW page and choose 'Asia Pacific Disaster Response' in the drop-down menu.

---95-Year-Old Humanitarian Aid Organization Responds---

NEW YORK, NY, October 1, 2009—The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), an overseas humanitarian aid organization working in over 70 countries, today announced that it is collecting funds on a non-sectarian basis for relief efforts following two earthquake-related disasters in the Asia Pacific region: in the tsunami-wracked Samoan islands and on the Indonesian island of Sumatra; as well as the Tropical Storm Parma, which strengthened to a typhoon and two cyclones in the Philippines, leaving hundreds dead and thousands homeless.

JDC is conducting a full and rapid assessment of the situation on the ground, and reaching out to its network of local, Israeli, and other international partners to determine critical next steps based on immediate needs of the hardest-hit areas. JDC will look to fill critical gaps in humanitarian assistance being provided. The efforts are part of JDC’s International Development Program (IDP), which provides immediate relief and long-term assistance to victims of natural and manmade disasters.

“Our hearts go out to the victims of these catastrophic disasters, and as we did following the 2004 Tsunami in Southeast Asia, JDC will leverage its strong partnerships in the region and around the world to respond quickly and compassionately to the needs of those affected,” said Steve Schwager, JDC Chief Executive Officer. “It is our long-standing mission to provide as much help as possible for people whose lives have been suddenly devastated, be it by supplying food, medicines, and blankets or rebuilding schools and homes. Now and in the months to come, JDC will provide both immediate relief and long-term assistance to help these victims rebuild their lives,” he added.