Reclaiming the comforts of home

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), one of Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s overseas partners, helps Holocaust survivors in need

Oszkár, 94, vividly remembers his Budapest childhood. Passover seders with family, singing in the synagogue choir, studying at vocational school—and the Nazis storming in and destroying all of it. Though he had dreamed of one day becoming a bank officer, the new anti-Jewish legislation turned what should have been an attainable goal into an impossible fantasy.

At 21, he was taken to two different labor camps, one run by a sadistic supervisor who forced each inmate to carry logs up a hill–logs so big each required two people to lift.

Somehow he survived.

Shortly after the war, Oszkár was fortunate to meet the love of his life, but since she passed away 20 years ago, he has lived alone in a small apartment in his hometown. His health declined in 2012 after a stroke left him with constant tremors, partial blindness and deafness, and limited mobility.

But with Federation at his side, he’s never alone.

A Holistic Approach

Oszkár is one of the approximately 4,000 Nazi victims receiving life-saving assistance from Federation partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)’s Hungarian office. He depends on critical medical care and home supplies, while other Hungarian Holocaust survivors receive food packages, home care, medicines, visits from social workers and more.

Direct service is just one part of JDC’s mission to assist Holocaust survivors in Hungary.

At the JCC in Budapest, the Shalom Club offers them the chance to come together for educational and social programs that also help beat isolation, like film screenings, city tours, and exercise. About 20-30 survivors participate in the monthly Eotvos social club, with many also serving as community volunteers.

It’s a holistic approach—one that reminds Holocaust survivors they have a whole Jewish community working hard to care for their needs.

“JDC makes me feel like I’m not alone,” Oszkár says.

DAY // WAY 35: Practice Tzedakah

Meet Anton, Vira, and Alexey.

They could be your neighbors, members of your synagogue, or the family you see down the street and wave to in passing.

What you don’t know is that Anton, Vira, and Alexey live a world away in Pavlograd—along with 3,000 other displaced persons—in a Federation-funded center.

Unlike most of us, they will celebrate Pesach in their temporary home just a few dozen miles from the frontline of escalating violence in Ukraine. Forced to flee their home for safety, they are just a few of the young, middle-class families that now occupy this center, receiving food, medicine, and whatever else they need to feel safe and secure in these uncertain times.

You can help Anton, Vira, Alexey, and others just like them with a gift to Federation. Because we are all responsible for one another.

 

DAY // WAY 10 – Thoughts on Shabbat with Rabbi Kravitz

By Rabbi Harold J. Kravitz, Adath Jeshurun Congregation, Minnetonka, MN

rabbi kravitzCuba has taken center stage in the news this past month with the historic visit of President Obama. I had the privilege of leading a congregation trip to Cuba sponsored by our Adath Jeshurun that just preceded the President’s. Though ours had a somewhat lower profile, it was a deeply meaningful experience for all of us who had the privilege to participate. We were a group of 31 whose hope was to learn more about this island that Columbus referred to as the “pearl of the Antilles.” The first Jew to set foot on the island was Luis De Torres, a converso who arrived with the Columbus expedition in 1492, perhaps fleeing the inquisition. Fluent in Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic, he served as the ship translator, hoping to be able to communicate with the indigenous people they would encounter.

Torres did not live beyond that first year, but Cuba became a welcoming port to Jews for much of its future history. Most of the island’s Jews fled the country around the time of the 1959 revolution. Our trip was an extraordinary opportunity to encounter some of the approximately 1200 Jews who continue to live in Cuba and have been rediscovering their Jewish heritage since greater religious freedom began in the 1990s. I highly recommend reading Ruth Behar’s compelling study, An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba, which powerfully conveys that story and features many of the people we met during our travels.

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It was deeply impressive to see firsthand the ways that the Jewish life has been revitalized in Cuba. Much of this is attributable to the effective work of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) or “El Jointo” as it is referred to in Cuba. Through the efforts of the “Joint,” synagogues have been rejuvenated, Jewish life and learning has been revitalized, and Jews have reconnected to our people. The JDC could not function so effectively around the world (other than Israel) were it not the beneficiary of the nearly one million dollars that our Minneapolis Federation directs to it from our annual campaign.

Our Cuban brothers and sisters deeply appreciate our support and solidarity. It was positively inspiring to see the dedication of the lay leaders we met who have made possible the rejuvenation of Cuban Jewish religious and communal life. It was perfect that the week we visited Cuba’s synagogues, among other touring we did, was when the Jewish people were reading parshat Vaykhel, which starts with Moses assembling the people to build the ancient Tabernacle. Vaykhel is from the same Hebrew word as kehillah, meaning “community.” It was incredible to see the common impulse that drives us at Adath Jeshurun, in the Minnesota Jewish community, and in these revitalized Cuban synagogues to build meaningful Jewish communities to support another generation in creating a vital Jewish life. We look forward to seeing what warming relations between the USA and Cuba will bring in the years ahead.

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To learn more about our incredible global partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which we call JDC and Cuban’s call “The Joint,” visit their website.

Be sure to check out the rest of our 100 Days events and posts on Facebookon Twitter as well as on our website.

Have you made your donation to the Community Campaign this year?

A gift as simple at $18 can support the important work going on in Cuba to create the kind of vibrant Jewish community that ensures a Jewish future in every corner of the world.

Donate $18

 

DAY // WAY 2: Celebrate Purim with these two steps

1. Matanot La’Evyonim — Gifts to the poor

On Purim we give money to at least two poor people, and this gift can be given through a community representative–such as Minneapolis Jewish Federation. This gift is a special mitzvah, not to be included in the amount of money a person sets aside for charity during the rest of the year.

Minneapolis Jewish Federation works in partnership with organizations around the world, like the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization, to improve the well being of vulnerable people in Israel and more than 70 countries.

To see how donations make a difference, read about Tatiana and Bronisalv receiving food and supplies—sometimes by sled—in the bitter cold of Ukraine.

Closer to home, programs like Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JFCS)’s Kosher Meals on Wheels, ensure that vulnerable seniors have both Kosher meals and daily check-ins from a friend, right at home. To read about one such participant, click on Harold’s story.

We can’t feed Tatiana or Harold without your help. In honor of Purim, give today.

GIVE NOW

 

2. Give Mishloach Manot to friends, and use these fun printable gift tags to share the joy of Purim!

Mishloah Manot means, “sending of portions” in Hebrew; on Purim we gift food and drink to family and friends. Minneapolis Jewish Federation has a way to make your hamentashen plate a little more special–adorable gift tags.

Simply package your gifts, print and cut these cute tags, and you’ve got Purim wrapped up!

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Be sure to check out the rest of our 100 Days events and posts on Twitter as well as on our website. Like posts like this? Why not give us a “chai” five?

Donate $18

IMPACT: Healing Trauma with Help from a Furry Friend

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Five-year-old Guy has spent his entire young life in Ashkelon, an Israeli city only miles from the Gaza border. He knows what to do when sirens warning of incoming rockets wail: run to the nearest safe room as quickly as possible and hide.

So this summer, when a rocket nearly destroyed his neighbor’s house, Guy was safe in a shelter. But witnessing the hit greatly shocked him.

#60DaysMJF Images for E-mail and Blog (3)He became obsessed with a shrapnel fragment from the explosion. He burst into tears at the sound of each siren. Between alarms, he refused to leave the house or sleep in his own bed, clinging instead to his mother. He also became violent, throwing objects and even biting people.

These behaviors are typical of post-traumatic stress, a diagnosis shared by tens of thousands of children and adults in Israel’s south. To confront this epidemic head-on, Jewish Federation’s Stop the Sirens campaign has allocated millions of dollars to support intensive trauma and psychological counseling programs—like the innovative one that’s now helping Guy recover.

Guy’s new best friend is Hibuki, a therapeutic puppy doll developed by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a Federation partner agency. JDC’s therapists told Guy that Hibuki was scared and suffering. As Guy talked to Hibuki about its feelings, program therapists gained valuable insight into Guy’s own fears.

“Ordinarily we don’t have a way to know why a small child is responding to the trauma they have experienced in a certain way,” said Dr. Flora Mor, a JDC psychotherapist. “I am repeatedly amazed to see the change that begins to take place once a child ‘adopts’ a Hibuki doll.”

After a few days, Guy was significantly more relaxed and his violent behavior decreased. He gave up his piece of shrapnel, began participating in activities and no longer clung to his mother. And as he continues healing, Hibuki will be a treasured companion.

Hibuki is only one of the many invaluable tools Federation partner agencies like JDC, The Jewish Agency for Israel, the Israel Trauma Coalition and others are using to help alleviate the impact of a summer of conflict.

You can help Federation continue to support our partner agencies today in three ways:

GIVE_60DOI
Give
 to change lives locally and globally through a gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Community Campaign, which builds community, cares for the welfare of Jews everywhere, and maximizes participation in Jewish life.

DONATE

VOLUNTEER_60DOI
Volunteer 
by investing your time—make calls at a Call for Change phone-a-thon, join a committee, or become a campaigner.

SIGN UP TO CALL FOR CHANGE

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

ENGAGE_60DOI
Engage 
by exploring the many ways to get involved with Federation, from attending an event to exploring leadership opportunities, to hopping on our upcoming Campaigner’s Mission!

JOIN THE CAMPAIGNERS’ MISSION

ATTEND AN EVENT

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES

IMPACT: Helping the World Over

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With partner agencies like JDC operating in more than 70 countries around the world, odds are you’ll run into Federation on your travels. Sheri and Steve did in Morocco.

Originally a haven for Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, Morocco has been a home to Jews for hundreds of years. Today the small, vibrant Moroccan Jewish community is a particularly active JDC partner, achieving an exceptional degree of self-sufficiency and serving as an example for other Jewish communities the world over.

Jews have been living in Morocco since Roman times. Moroccan Jewry – a unique community with a rich heritage – has undergone significant demographic change over the past half-century, with emigration largely responsible for reducing its numbers from their mid-1900s peak of 240,000.

#60DaysMJF Images for E-mail and Blog (7)Today, there are some 4,000 Jews in Morocco living among a predominantly Muslim population of over 32 million people. Despite this minority status, the bond between Morocco’s Muslims and Jews has remained strong, and Jewish communal life in Morocco offers a model of coexistence that many in the West are unaware of.

The Jewish community of Morocco has succeeded in maintaining a strong Jewish identity and is very well organized. It includes two Jewish school systems, welfare services, medical facilities, and homes for the aged. The majority of Morocco’s Jews – between 3,000 and 3,200 – live in Casablanca, a thriving center of Jewish communal life and home to over 20 functioning synagogues, three Jewish social clubs, kosher restaurants, and most of the community’s infrastructure.

While the Jewish community remains vibrant and dynamic, the community is cognizant of the need for security measures at Jewish schools and institutions. This, together with a rapid rise in the cost of living, has created financial challenges for the community that have necessitated cuts in allocations affecting a range of welfare, medical, and school programs.

JDC works in cooperation and partnership with local leadership and the Council of Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization representing Jewish communities in Morocco, to address these challenges. Together, they offer financial and technical assistance to Jewish institutions and programs in Casablanca and seven smaller provincial communities to help in providing necessary health, welfare, and educational services for Morocco’s Jews.

You can help us support our partner agencies, such as JDC, today in three ways:

GIVE_60DOI
Give
 to change lives locally and globally through a gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Community Campaign, which builds community, cares for the welfare of Jews everywhere, and maximizes participation in Jewish life.

DONATE

VOLUNTEER_60DOI
Volunteer 
by investing your time—make calls at a Call for Change phone-a-thon, join a committee, or become a campaigner.

SIGN UP TO CALL FOR CHANGE

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

ENGAGE_60DOI
Engage 
by exploring the many ways to get involved with Federation, from attending an event to exploring leadership opportunities, to hopping on our upcoming Campaigner’s Mission!

JOIN THE CAMPAIGNERS’ MISSION

ATTEND AN EVENT

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES

IMPACT: Federations Protect the Most Vulnerable

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When the cold winds whip through Dora Pozel’s house in the Carpathian Mountains of western Ukraine, Federation helps her brave the harsh winter with warm clothes, blankets and a recently installed gas stove, electric heater, and radiator.

Likewise for 64-year-old Stelian Obada, who lives alone in a remote corner of Moldova, the poorest country in Europe. Stelian suffers from cerebral palsy, severe arthritis, glaucoma, and central retinal artery thrombosis. Each winter, Federation makes him a little more comfortable with food packages, as well as coal, gas, and firewood to heat his home.

#60DaysMJF Images for E-mail and Blog (11)This help for Dora, Stelian, and thousands of other Jews in the former Soviet Union (FSU) is provided by the Jewish Federation’s partner agency, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Through JDC’s Hesed network of more than 2,600 social welfare centers, the Winter Relief program provides boots, coats, blankets, coal and wood, and helps cover heating costs for Jews from Belarus to Kazakhstan.

Last year, JDC’s Winter Relief program helped nearly 15,000 elderly and 8,000 children survive a bitter winter—children like Alexander Petrov’s five girls and two boys, who live in a small Ukranian village with no gas supply or running water. Without the JDC-provided coal, the Petrov children are often drafted to join their parents in a nearby forest to collect firewood.

For many in this part of the world, where some of the poorest Jews in the world reside, Jewish Federation support is literally the difference between life and death. The social security they receive from their governments is insufficient, and they often are forced to choose between spending what little money they have on food and medicine, heating or home care – basic human needs that no person should have to go without.

Jewish Federation and JDC’s partnership is the only safety net that exists for the FSU’s most vulnerable. With their support, Dora, Stelian, the Petrov children and so many others have a better chance at surviving the winter.

You can help inspire Dora, Stelian, and thousands of other Jews in the former Soviet Union (FSU) today in three ways:

GIVE_60DOI
Give
 to change lives locally and globally through a gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Community Campaign, which builds community, cares for the welfare of Jews everywhere, and maximizes participation in Jewish life.

DONATE

VOLUNTEER_60DOI
Volunteer 
by investing your time—make calls at a Call for Change phone-a-thon, join a committee, or become a campaigner. 

SIGN UP TO CALL FOR CHANGE

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

ENGAGE_60DOI
Engage 
by exploring the many ways to get involved with Federation, from attending an event to exploring leadership opportunities, to hopping on our upcoming Campaigner’s Mission! 

JOIN THE CAMPAIGNERS’ MISSION

ATTEND AN EVENT

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES