More than 8,500 poor, elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union received honey and other holiday fare delivered by local volunteers and Hesed social welfare centers.
This Rosh Hashanah, thousands of Jews from emerging, established, and ancient Jewish communities around the world celebrated the holiday at scores of JDC events including concerts, workshops, volunteer opportunities, trainings, and cultural performances. As part of this effort, more than 8,500 poor, elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union received a special holiday package of food and traditional holiday items, including honey, to connect them with the global Jewish community and celebrate the Jewish New Year. This annual tradition is made possible by JDC through its partners: the Jewish Federations, Claims Conference, and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).
“The power of Jewish tradition is especially intense during Rosh Hashanah, when we gather with our loved ones to engage in timeless customs that remind us of our many blessings, from hearing the shofar to dipping apples in honey. From a homebound 80-year-old woman in Moldova who is visited by volunteers bringing a gift basket, to a young Jewish leader teaching his peers New Year traditions in Poland, we are empowering other Jews around the world to share in these rituals, to taste the sweetness of community, and to create new opportunities for the new year and generations to come,” said JDC CEO David Schizer.
For Roza F., a 64-year-old former construction firm secretary, Rosh Hashanah activities and the jar of honey she gets from JDC are reminders of her deep connection to a community that has now become her family. Without living parents or siblings, and never married due to a history of illness, Roza’s life can get lonely, especially around holiday times. Though comforted by memories of her parents —whose cooking she fondly recalls as both were involved in culinary professions — it’s the Jewish community of Rivne, Ukraine, where she finds her joy. Not only does she receive aid to help her live beyond her small monthly pension and health issues, she is enthusiastically involved in holiday celebrations and other community activities.
In Hungary, JDC’s annual Judafest — a Jewish cultural festival in Budapest which draws thousands of people each year —focused on Jewish High Holiday traditions through music, art, food, and performance. At the JCC Warsaw, local families attended Rosh Hashanah “seders,” learning holiday traditions and creating their own for years to come. In India, holiday services were offered at the local JCC in Mumbai together with holiday focused mindfulness classes and retreat on the theme of empowerment and deeper listening. In Morocco, the Old Age Home of Casablanca hosted a holiday party for residents, with local volunteers delivering holiday gifts to the elderly. In Berlin, 50 home-hosted meals were organized by young adults around the city for anybody looking to connect and celebrate the holiday, stressing the Jewish value of welcoming strangers. And in a number of cities throughout Romania, cooking classes, ceramics workshops, wine tastings, and educational events will focus on the foods and ritual aspects of the holiday.
Among Rosh Hashanah events in post-Soviet nations, volunteers in Kharkov, Ukraine and Rostov, Russia, visited with homebound and elderly community members to deliver holiday packages and provide company to the loneliest without family to share the holiday, while in Moldova and Belarus, special concerts by local performers were held in honor of the holiday. In Kiev, local families were treated to Rosh Hashanah celebrations featuring traditional holiday feasts and family games around the corgi, including JDC’s Halom JCC. In Krasnodar, Russia participants had the opportunity to attend a pottery class dedicated to making holiday related products, while in Yekaterinburg, Russia participants made challah and jam for community members in need. Most events in this region were held at JDC’s vast network of Hesed social welfare centers and Jewish community centers.
Here are some wonderful photos of volunteers visiting elderly homebound clients in our partner community of Cherkassy, Ukraine, and bringing some sweetness and joy into their homes.