JDC: In Service

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

APPLY NOW: The 2012-13 JDC Jewish Service Corps

Looking for an authentic service opportunity overseas, responding to Jewish and humanitarian needs? Know someone exceptional, committed to making a difference?

The JDC Jewish Service Corps (JSC) is a yearlong, paid, professional opportunity for recent college graduates and young professionals to directly engage with JDC’s global mission and actively fulfill the value of Jewish responsibility.

JDC offers placements around the world, working with Jewish communities and on non-sectarian programs in locations including Argentina, China, Ethiopia, Germany, Israel, Rwanda and Ukraine.

Learn more about the JSC and read blog posts from our current JSC Fellows at http://jdc.org/jsc.

Application deadline: March 15, 2012

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Inside Haiti: Special Opportunity for UK Jewish Young Professionals

Live in the UK, or know an exceptional Jewish young professional living in the UK? The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is seeking outstanding participants from the region for our Inside Haiti young professionals trip in April. More below.

Application deadline: February 20, 2012

Email globalservice@jdcny.org for more information and an application.


Applying nearly a century of relief expertise as the world’s largest Jewish humanitarian assistance organization, the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) mobilized within hours of the tragic January 2010 earthquake in Haiti and has raised some $8.6 million to help the survivors rebuild their lives.  Within 48 hours, JDC allocated initial emergency relief funds and soon thereafter a team of JDC professionals was on the ground.

Two years after the earthquake, there is still a lot of rebuilding that needs to be done.  You can make a difference on the ground today.

Travel with JDC on Inside Haiti, JDC’s Jewish young professionals service trip to Haiti, from April 16-22, 2012.  Gain first-hand insight into challenges facing the country, take part in JDC’s humanitarian interventions and volunteer in areas of medical assistance, educational support and humanitarian relief.

Apply nowEmail globalservice@jdcny.org for more information and an application.  Be sure to mention that you are applying from the UK.  Tell your friends & share with your networks!

Special subsidies available for UK participants; Space is limited

Application deadline: February 20, 2012

Unable to travel in April?

Special UK subsidies are also available for the following JDC Service Trips:

  • Inside Jewish Bulgaria, June 2012
  • Inside Jewish Argentina, August 2012
  • Inside Ethiopia, November 2012

For a full list of 2012 Overseas Experiences with JDC, click here

About JDC: For over 95 years, the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has provided rescue, relief, and renewal for Jewish communities outside of North America, helped Israel meet the needs of its most vulnerable citizens, and offered a Jewish response to natural and man-made disasters and non-sectarian development needs around the world.  JDC’s work in over 70 countries is inspired by Jewish values of mutual responsibility, that kol yisrael areivim zeh l’zeh (all of Israel is responsible for one another), and tikkun olam, that Jews have an obligation to repair the world. To learn more visit www.jdc.org.



Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

On Tu B’shvat, gardens, and almond trees

Ayal Weiner-Kaplow, seen above at the JDC-supported Rehovot Ethiopian Women’s Garden in Israel, is serving this year as a JDC BBYO Global Service Fellow in Jerusalem, working on projects with teens that focus on neighborhood beautification and renovation work, community gardening, mentorship and youth leadership development. Who better to check in with on Tu B’shvat? You can read more blog posts from Ayal all year on his blog, Around Israel in 365 Days.

I am sure that I am not the only kid in religious school who wondered how on earth “they” could have mis-planned the timing of the spring holiday of Tu B’shvat to be in the middle winter. Instead of being a time of year with green sprouts and flowering buds my world was covered by a blanket of white snow (and subsequently a lovely brown/grey icy slush on the roads).

Here in Israel I get it. The season and the holiday match up… This time of year the rains are in full swing (as I write this the wind is blowing and the clouds seem to promise rain soon!), the land has returned to green for at least a few months, and the country is coming together for tree plantings.

The popular Israeli children’s Tu B’shvat song describes the atmosphere of the holiday quite well…

“The almond trees are blooming, the golden sun is shining…”

A view looking towards Jerusalem from the Judean Hills. Take a look at the almond tree's flower and also the black almonds on the branches.

“Tu B’shvat, the holiday of the trees has arrived…” and children all over the country are celebrating to holiday in traditional fashion… by planting of trees.

The garden seen here is part of the JDC-Israel project that works with residents of socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods to establish community gardens. These Joint supported gardens are used as a tool bring neighbors together for a unifying communal project to beautify previously neglected urban spaces and improve residents’ connection to and sense of ownership over their own local environment.

A birds eye view of a portion of the Talpiot neighborhood community garden

Since my arrival in to Israel I have been working on mapping out and surveying all of the JDC supported gardens throughout Israel (nearly 150 at the moment… with more each day!) and have also been in the field, volunteering with the garden seen above, in Jerusalem. Each community garden takes on its own character. Some are big, some are small. Some have vegetables, others flowers, and many grow both. Some are tended to by Ethiopian Israeli elderly, some by veteran Israelis, and many more by a mixture of different populations.

At the end of the day though, these are just small details as the success of these gardens is not determined by how much is grown but rather by the blossoming of the residents’ ability to take ownership over and connect to their own physical environment.  It’s been amazing to see and take part in the overwhelmingly positive impact these gardens are having all over the country- looking forward to more to come!

Thanks to Ayal for sharing this piece with us, which is cross-posted on his blog and JDC: In Service.

Want to make a difference overseas? The BBYO Global Service Fellowship and the JDC Jewish Service Corps are accepting applications through March 15. More at JDC.org/JSC.

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Looking Deeper: Seeking Asylum in Israel

In the past five years, over 45,000 African asylum seekers entered Israel. In February, we’ll have events in three cities across the United States, looking deeper at this complex issue and at how JDC is responding. We hope you’ll join us.

Email shaunar@jdcny.org for more information.

Washington, DC
February 13 | 7:30-9:30pm
Tabaq | 1336 U. Street | Map
Chairs: Samantha Hacker and Aliyah Phillips
In association with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
RSVP: http://lookingdeeperdc.eventbrite.com

Boston, MA
February 15 | 7:30-9:30pm
The Living Room | 101 Atlantic Avenue | Map
Chairs: Mollie Barnathan and Bellie Freytsis
In association with the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston
RSVP: http://lookingdeeperboston.eventbrite.com

New York, NY
February 21 | 7:30-9:30pm
The World Bar | 845 United Nations Plaza | Map
Chair: Jessica Holzberg and David Zandi
RSVP: http://lookingdeeperny.eventbrite.com

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Daniella Alhadeff: The Bayati Old Age Home

In December 2011, 19 Australian Jewish young adults traveled to India with JDC to learn more about this country’s Jewish community first-hand. Daniella, who lives in Sydney, recounts this experience below from the group’s visit to the JDC-supported old age home in India.

Daniella (front, right) poses with her Australian counterparts and George (center)

A huge smile bursts out of a wizened face, his short frame and skinny legs jumping spritely from a chair to welcome us to his room.  George Taylor is a 72 year old gentleman who moved to Bayiti 15 days ago from his home in Mumbai.

He shyly answers our questions as we crowd around the single bed and three plastic chairs, in the small room shared with one other gentleman.  George tells us that he likes birds, recalling a parrot named Mitu that his family kept as a pet. Mitu could speak, couldn’t fly and would wander around outside his cage and say English words.  George has a beautiful photograph of his mother sitting atop the locker, a pair of glasses and mosquito spray.

We turn to education, and he proudly shows us a notebook with perfectly formed words, neat lists of phone numbers, addresses and other details.  He explains that he used to create comics, over 60 years ago, for the newspapers.  He unlocks the small metal locker that holds his possessions.  A faded newspaper, two original university degree certificates and a maths book are the remaining souvenirs of a career spanning decades.  As we pursue the conversation, we learn that George lived in an apartment in Mumbai but was told by the landlord that “you are old and need to leave – if you die, I will be in trouble”.  In a country with no social security, limited homeless services and no safety net, JDC prevented him from sleeping on the street by swiftly providing a place for him in the Bayiti old age home.

Everything he owns covers less than one shelf in the locker, the remaining clutter belonging to the prior tenant who had “expired”.  A man full of vitality and warmth, we all think of our own grandparents who are full of life and energy, surrounded by love, comfort and memoirs of a life well lived.

Having visited Meals on Wheels recipients the day before and seeing one room apartments that seemed shockingly small by Western standards, our paradigms are adjusted as we realise that those were luxurious in comparison to the conditions we see today.  We are slowly understanding a fraction of the challenges of a country of over one billion people, and feeling helpless at the scale of poverty and suffering.  The poignant JDC philosophy that ‘to save one life is to save a whole world’ reflects a practical approach that genuinely changes the world of the people assisted by its programs.

When it is time to leave, George clasps my hand and says that I have become like a true friend. He asks if we can be penpals, and slowly writes his new address in my book.  It was a privilege for us to meet such individuals who have lived through India’s rich and turbulent history, who remember the days of British rule and can share a lifetime of stories.  In a country where living can be a daily struggle, we are touched by JDC’s mission to help those in need, people who, in just a few hours, have become our friends.

Whose life will you touch overseas? Click here for information on our upcoming trips.

George with his university graduation certificate from the Indian government, dated 1962

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

JSC Fellows Commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Salaspins Concentration Camp Memorial - Riga, Latvia (photo: Joey Eisman)

Today, January 27, marks the United Nations’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Around the world, JDC works in communities that were ravaged by the Holocaust. Many of our JDC Jewish Service Corps (JSC) Fellows interact with survivors on a daily basis, and the memories of this terrible time remain strong in the cities where we operate in Europe and the Former Soviet Union.

To commemorate International Holocaust Rememberence Day, we pulled together blog posts from our current JSC Fellows that look at survivors and memorials around the world.

Applications for the 2012-13 JDC Jewish Service Corps are open until March 15. More at jdc.org/jsc

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Aviad Tamir: Building New Connections in Poland

Aviad Tamir is the 2011-2012 JDC Ralph I. Goldman (RIG) Fellow in International Jewish Service. Aviad is originally from Israel, earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and completed his Master’s degree in Public Policy at the Lauder School of Government, Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. Prior to his role as a RIG Fellow, Aviad worked in Israel’s office of the Prime Minister as an Advisor to the Director General in the Ministry for Senior Citizens. He is currently based in Warsaw, Poland.

Havdalah ceremony at weekend leadership seminar for JDC volunteers (Photo: Aviad Tamir)

The Ralph I. Goldman (RIG) Fellowship in International Jewish Service is an experience like no other. I am JDC’s 27th RIG Fellow, and if you look back at the experiences of the last 26 RIG Fellows, no two years are the same. Each fellow works with JDC staff to identify and design their placements which are also shaped by timely and critical situations identified by JDC and in consideration of the special qualifications of the individual fellow.

I moved from Israel to New York for my initial Fellowship Orientation period. I had suitcases of clothing for different climates, open-mindedness about new people, culture and foods, and was ready for whatever my next steps would be – or at least I thought so. During my orientation period, I met with a variety of staff and past Fellows, and read as much as I could about JDC’s programs overseas. I even had the chance to travel to Ethiopia with a JDC Next Gen Young Professional’s service trip and gain exposure to JDC’s non-sectarian programs, as well as a deeper understanding of the Next Gen Initiative, which my placement is a part of. You can imagine just how eager I was to venture to my first identified assignment as a RIG Fellow.

I arrived in Poland two months ago for my first placement, and I am currently conducting research for the local JDC office in Warsaw about Jewish life in smaller communities across Poland, and developing plans for additional outreach and young adult programming. Never did I expect to end up in Poland – a country that means a great deal to me personally, as my grandparents were born there. Growing up in Israel, I was mainly exposed to the image of Poland in the context of Holocaust history and Anti-Semitism. Today, I see a place that is making a come-back as a center of Jewish life.

Anti-Nazi graffiti in Poland (Photo: Aviad Tamir)

The Jewish studies departments in universities are packed. In fact, a large portion of the world’s students in Yiddish Studies study in Poland. Visitors come from all over the world to explore their past and participate in cultural events, including the biggest Jewish cultural festival in Europe which takes place in Krakow, attracting thousands every year.

Moreover, while in some communities around Europe the numbers are declining and the leadership is facing significant challenges regarding how to accommodate the next generation, the Jewish community here is a thriving and growing community. The community still faces some identity issues and the memories of their complicated past, yet, as my friend Jonathan Ornstein, the Director of the Krakow JCC, likes to say, “The world today should learn from Poland, as Poland has much to show the rest of the Jewish world in terms of focusing on the future while dealing with a difficult past.”

JDC has responded to the growing Jewish community with a number of different points of focus. JDC works on the national level here, creating educational and cultural events in big communities; providing basic assistance for those in need, including food, socialization and medicine; and creating programs that focus on development and leadership for young adults.

However, JDC understands the importance of expanding its activities and reaching out to Jews wherever they are in Poland, not just large cities. In my research, I’m addressing this issue, examining the challenges of operating within smaller, more isolated Polish Jewish communities. Therefore, my research requires extensive traveling around the country and meeting with community leaders, supporters and professionals who serve in these local Jewish communities.

While traveling around Poland and meeting wonderful people, I have found Poland to be a fascinating country with a rich culture and Jewish history. Although I’ve only been in here for a short time, I already feel that my perspective and the image of Poland I arrived with have changed dramatically.

Havdalah ceremony at weekend leadership seminar for JDC volunteers (Photo: Aviad Tamir)

One of my greatest experiences so far, which emphasizes the importance of JDC’s effort to connect with the small communities was through the JDC “Chanukah Caravan”. I spent a day on the road in a small mini-van with 10 madrichim, stopping in various small communities to prepare Chanukah events.  For most of these communities, these events are the only time where they can gather around and practice their Judaism publicly as they are far from the big cities and don’t have synagogues or other Jewish institutions around.

I joined the Caravan and visited Czestochowa, a city in south Poland. I must admit that even my cynical Israeli character, who is usually too cool to get emotional around holiday time, was caught in the holiday spirit as I sat together with the crowd made up of all ages, spinning dreidels and singing Chanukah songs. Excited by what I just participated in, I commented to a JDC staff person who accompanied us that it’s amazing to see the existence of Jewish life in such a small community of only a few dozen, where even the elderly are so enthusiastic. She responded that while we believe that we are doing Chanukah for them,  the elderly actually think that they are doing it for us, and they are excited to welcome 10 young Jewish Madrichim to their small community, as this symbolizes Jewish revival for them, and the future of Jewish life in Poland. Whatever the reason was for having the community members participate in the event, it was clear that we all needed each other, young and old,  a combination of history and a renewed spirit and commitment to Jewish life.

As I proceed in my research over the next few weeks, I’m looking forward to exploring the culture, tasting the local food, and continuing to struggle with learning the Polish language in my ongoing search of today’s Poland. Whether it was fate, or simply because my skills matched the needs here in Poland which brought me here, in many ways I have returned home to my family’s roots, to the thriving Jewish center that once existed for my ancestors, and I hope to discover more about my personal history, while helping the JDC to grow their scope of programming over the remaining weeks that I am here.  Coming back to Poland more than 70 years after my family was forced to leave, and helping to revive the Jewish community feels like victory.

Monday, December 19th, 2011

JDC-Australia: Checking in from India

Alex Kats checks in from Mumbai to provide an update on the first-ever JDC-Australia Jewish Young Professionals Service and Leadership Trip to India. Alex lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Hello from India!

For the past week, I have been privileged to be part of the inaugural JDC-Australia Jewish Young Professionals Service and Leadership Trip to India. For me, like many of the other participants from Melbourne and Sydney, this has already been an international adventure like no other. We are based in Mumbai, a fascinating and colorful city, and have spent most of our time devoted to learning about JDC and its work in India, and to seeing the Jewish attractions and learning about the Jewish history and life of the city. One of the rare non-Jewish attractions that we have seen thus far was the Mumbai residence of Mahatma Ghandi. He was and remains a mythological figure in Indian society respected by the people, who spent most of his life completely devoted and dedicated to his cause. In many ways he is symbolic of the Jewish community of this country. Like Ghandi, Jews are respected in an almost mythological way, despite their almost negligible percentage of the population. The leaders of the community are also dedicated to ensuring the survival of Judaism and preserving it as a viable outlet for however many Jews there may be.

A prime example of the Jewish community’s perseverance is the Sassoon High School, founded and initially funded by the philanthropic and highly respected Sassoon family of Pune, just outside of Mumbai. When first started, the school was entirely for the Jewish community, where Jewish students could attend without paying, and learned about Jewish religion, culture and the Hebrew language, according to the school’s charter. Today the school has 547 students from all over Indian society. Of these, only 17 are Jewish, but as has always been the case and in keeping with the founding principles, they don’t pay to receive an education and also partake in many other benefits, like free transport, after school Jewish studies classes, and special foods. Moreover, despite the now 90% of students who are Muslim and others who are Christian, the school closes on all Jewish festivals and maintains an underlying Jewish persona, which adds to the mythology of Jews in India.

Not far from the school as well as in other parts of the city are a number of old synagogues that despite their historic façades, are still very much in use today. Unlike synagogues that we might be used to at home, many of them are more than just prayer halls. They are the focal points of their communities, with large halls and a full calendar of events, providing a sense of communal security and stability. They also infuse the community with a sense of Jewishness that might otherwise be lacking. For many of us, this notion inspired us, but nothing moved us more than a visit with two elderly citizens of the community. Both now in their 80s live in a communal housing estate around the corner from one of the old synagogues. For a few moments in the early afternoon, both invited us into their small but practical apartments, infused with Jewish artifacts. Shimon Joseph used to be an accountant who after officially retiring from private practice, worked for 10 years for the JDC, where he didn’t even use a calculator, let alone a computer. Sophie Solomon Babrikar worked in life insurance for a government firm for many years and told us how she had to get permission from the firm when she wanted to visit Israel for a month about 20 years ago. Both Shimon and Sophie are recipients of JDC’s Meals-on-Wheels program that are delivered to elderly or underprivileged clients once a day, with a special delivery on Fridays before Shabbat.

For our group, meeting these two community members, along with many other Jewish Indians, and hearing about the work of the JDC and the rest of the organized Jewish community has been the most rewarding and fascinating element of our trip so far. The Jewish community in this country numbers less than 5,000 in a sea of multitudes, but with Ghandi-like dedication to ensure their continuity and active involvement, we know they are in good hands. And with more than a week of our program still to go, I’m sure we will be further enlightened and inspired.

Want to travel with JDC? Learn more about our trips in 2012 here.

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Life Changing Work in Ethiopia

Shaun Goldstone was born in Sydney, Australia and grew up in Israel and San Diego. He graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2010 with a degree in molecular biology. He has been serving in Ethiopia through the JDC Jewish Service Corps since February.

Having grown up in different countries and graduating as a pre-med who cared about Judaism, the JSC fellowship in Addis Ababa seemed like a rare opportunity to follow my passions. It enabled me to fulfill my desire to continue exploring the world, pursue my interest in medicine by working closely under JDC’s medical director, Dr. Rick Hodes, and develop my Jewish identity by witnessing the true meaning of Tikkun Olam in JDC’s IDP projects. 

I have now been in Ethiopia since February, 2011. I have spent the majority of my time working as Dr. Rick’s assistant. I have had the unbelievable opportunity to see Dr. Rick meet a heart or spine patient at the Catholic Mission where we have a clinic, get the necessary x-rays and tests, passports, visas, and funds to send someone to India for life-saving cardiac surgery or Ghana for life-changing spinal surgery and watch that patient return with a renewed sense of purpose. I have also been able to see the magic behind JDC’s 27 years in Ethiopia. I have done data analysis for the Falash Mura Gondar Clinic, worked with its scholarship recipients at Unity University and Gondar University, and assisted with raising awareness about JDC’s many school and well building projects.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so in the spirit of JDC’s efficiency and its ability to get the job done, check out the photos below to see what is happening in Ethiopia:

November, 2011

Pictured above with Dr. Rick and 13 of his 21 spinal patients who are preparing to depart the Addis Ababa Airport for Ghana. The age range for these patients is 4 to 17. This is their first time on an airplane. Accompanied by three of Dr. Rick’s assistants, these patients will spend two months in Ghana for spine surgery and then recovery. For all spinal surgeries, Dr. Rick partners with a Ghanian surgeon, Dr. Boachie: the founder of an organization called FOCOS. Now living in New York City, Dr. Boachie is considered the top spinal surgeon in the world, and brings a team with him to Ghana twice a year to conduct surgeries. Dr. Rick has been collaborating with Dr. Boachie for 6 years and has sent well over 100 patients to be operated on. As recently as February, 2011 Dr. Rick sent 33 patients to Ghana for surgery. For each patient, Dr. Rick must raise $18,000 for each patient’s surgery.

November, 2011

Pictured above with Betty, age 12, at the Addis Ababa airport. Betty is a true champion as this is her sixth trip to Ghana. She had growing rods put in, so that she could continue to grow while holding her spine relatively straight. They need periodic adjustments.

November, 2011

Pictured above with Fitsum, 23, Daguma, 15, and Tinur, 15. Fitsum’s life was saved 3 years ago when Dr. Rick sent him to Ghana for surgery.  Since he returned, Fitsum has dedicated his time to volunteering for Dr. Rick. Having spent time with Daguma and Tinur before their Ghana departure by getting them the necessary pre-surgery tests, passports and visas, he serves as role model for them. He sympathizes with them that it can be scary to leave your family and have surgery, but reassures them that Dr. Rick’s and Boachie’s work will give them a new and better future.

October, 2011

Pictured above with 7 of the 11 patients returning from heart surgery in India. Accompanied by Dr. Rick’s assistant Berhanu, (toting the adorable 3 year-old Yohannes who had a hole in his heart known as a ventricular septal defect), these patients, aged 3 to 35, spent three weeks in India having life-saving heart surgeries. Indian surgeons are highly experienced with the extreme cases which we send them, and surgery costs less than 10% of the price in the USA.

October, 2011

Pictured above with JDC local staff member, Tzedeke and 2,500 blankets which were recently delivered to the Somalian refugees. The JDC responded to the most severe drought that the horn of Africa has seen in 60 years by hand-delivering blankets. This is a mere example of JDC’s ability to respond to crisis.

Shaun is serving in Ethiopia as part of the JDC Jewish Service Corps. Learn more at jdc.org/jsc

Read more about JDC’s work with spinal patients in Ethiopia here.

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Shanghai: Global Day of Jewish Learning

Jeanine Buzali, one of 25 2011-2012 JDC Jewish Service Corps Fellows, is JDC’s first JSC fellow to spend a year of service in Shanghai, China.

JDC had an active history in Shanghai during and after World War II, closing down its operations there when the refugees from Nazi Europe we were aiding departed for Israel and other destinations.

In the last few years, as part of JDC’s Africa/Asia activities, we have begun an outreach effort to various expatriate communities in Asia, helping them to organize activities and ensure that they become part of the global Jewish family. Jeanine is helping in these efforts as a JSC fellow by networking within the expat world and building a relationship with the all-Chinese staff at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, which is housed in the former Ohel Moshe Synagogue.

Jeanine recently planned Shanghai’s Global Day of Jewish Learning. Under the banner of the Aleph Society, Jews around the globe come together once a year to study or in some other way relate to Jewish texts. This year’s event was carried out in several hundred locales, including, with JDC’s help, in Shanghai

Check out Jeanine’s photos, below!

Participants at Shanghai’s Global Day of Jewish Learning Read Jewish texts

Jeanine with a fellow organizer and a Chinese co-worker who gave the tour

Getting ready for brunch!

Discussing the texts in groups

Ohel Moshe Synagogue, Shanghai China

And check out JDC CEO Steve Schwager’s Executive Newsletter for more from Jeanine in Shanghai.