Following a successful and productive Budapest Conference the 54 Fellows from 26 JCCs in 12 countries have partnered to begin working on 7 global projects. In each group there are at least 3 JCCs from 3 countries and some have even more. All groups have conducted webinars and some are already working on global planning seminars in the upcoming weeks. Here are the projects and the partners:
The main funding for this program comes from JCC Global and from a generous grant allocated by the Commission on the Jewish People of UJA Federation of New York through its partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel. In addition JDC and participating JCCs are also supporting the program.
For the past several months a severe political and military conflict has plunged Ukraine into a crisis situation. With Russian and pro- Russian troops taking over the Crimea region, vast areas in Eastern Ukraine have been under fire. Over 3000 people were killed- including 3 Jews- and hundreds of thousands left their homes, leaving behind ghost towns. The weak Ukrainian economy has suffered additional blows. The value of the currency was significantly reduced, foreign investments came to a halt and Russia’s control over gas supplies bodes a very harsh winter for all Ukrainian citizens.
There are an estimated 300,000 Jews living in Ukraine with several tens of thousands in the Crimea region. During the past several months most of the Jews in Lugansk, Donetsk and the neighboring cities have left their homes. The majority left to safer cities in Ukraine, some to Russia, close to 3000 made Aliya to Israel and a small minority stayed. Our colleagues at JDC have been working tirelessly to provide emergency, welfare and recreational services. Interestingly, there is no official Jewish position on the conflict. The Jews in many ways represent the internal strife where one can find supporters of both sides. All along the JCCs and Hesed Centers (centers for the elderly) in Ukraine continued to provide programs to the local Jewish community and to refugees. During the summer, many children and youth participated in JCC summer camps and some attended the Szarvas camp in Hungary. We would like to share with you the work that has been done by the Mazal Tov JCC in Zaporizhzhya as told to us by Inessa Nosenko, the Director of the JCC and a Fellow in the JCC Global Amitim-Fellows Program:
“For the past few months the Mazal Tov JCC in Zaporizhzhya welcomed new friends. A large number of refugees from the Eastern region of Ukraine arrived in our city. Among them were 7 Jewish families who desperately needed help and support. One of them was Misha’s family. The father stayed in Donetsk in order to protect their apartment. The mother took 10 year old Misha, who needs constant medical and educational assistance, and fled. Misha and his mother were welcomed by our staff and enjoyed the programs at the JCC. Misha is a very friendly boy, eager to learn and soon found a home in our JCC.
Another family with two children, 7 year old Ksyusha and 4 year old Misha stayed with relatives in Zaporizhzhya for 3 months. The family fled from Alchevsk (in the Luhansk region) where the father stayed. At first, the mother tried to return to their home in Alchevsk in order not to lose her job, but when she was dismissed without any payment, she decided to leave and be with her children. The father suffers from atherosclerosis and the family is very worried about getting proper care with the recent situation. This is the situation now with many families from that region. The Mazal Tov JCC became a safe haven for the refugee families; welcoming families in need and trying to help them in every way possible.”
1. The image of Kippa by Idit Rubin, Board Member, Ginot Ha’ir Community Center, Jerusalem:
“This past summer, we experienced in Israel a long war that lasted more than 50 difficult days, when home became the war front. A time where many Israelis were running to protected spaces and did not enjoy a normal summer time.
Most of you followed the news about the war and its grim outcomes up close – the stories about heroism of many soldiers who have died and at the same time, the destruction in the city of Gaza and its surroundings.
I want to focus my comments on three images; all have one common word that can exemplify some of the dilemmas and discourse of this past summer. The word is Kippa which means a cap or a dome.
1. Kipat Barzel – Iron Dome – Iron Dome is the anti-missile system that was developed in Israel and used to protect its citizens against the Hamas missiles. The name connotes a religious protection. The connections between religion and army made the headlines when one of the senior officers wrote a letter to his soldiers telling them that they are asked to fight also for the sake of God. This caused a lot of debate in Israel. The letter may exemplify a social shift – from an army elite coming from Kibbutzim and Moshavim to senior officers coming from a religious/Zionist background.
2. Kipat Hasela – Dome of the Rock – Dome of the Rock is a known Muslim building in the old city of Jerusalem, believed to be built on top of the Foundation Stone. It has become a symbol of the Arab- Palestinian nationality and its picture is presented in many Arab/Palestinian homes. Even the Hamas, that calls for the annihilation of Israel, depicts the Dome of the Rock on its symbol. We see that religion and culture concepts are part of this war and not just national sentiments. It is important that we grasp and understand that a possible solution will have to take into account these aspects and not just those of geographical borders.
3. Kippa Aduma – Little Red Riding Hood – Little Red Riding Hood is a known tale by the Grim Brothers which shows the care and concern of a granddaughter to her grandmother. It expresses social and familial solidarity. Indeed, the acts of solidarity that were shown by the Israeli society during this war were outstanding. They encompassed all parts of the Israeli society. Many segments of the civil society were mobilized to help out. There were campaigns to help merchants and business people from the south earn income. Many donations and contributions were given to soldiers and to welfare and educational institutions.”
I hope that we can remember the Kippa motif. To know that one can- and should- interpret it in different ways. I send all of you best wishes for a good year. A year of many connections and joint partnerships.
2. A Hasbara Campaign at Hebraica by Jackeline de Nichols, President, Hebraica, Caracas, Venezuela
“In order to help clarify the reality of the conflict in Middle East and to provide real and balanced information, the CSCD Hebraica, Caracas-Venezuela, organized three Hasbara meetings aimed to all the staff of the community center and to professionals of other community institutions in Caracas, especially for non-Jewish workers.
Staff workers from all the Departments in the JCC participated: security, maintenance, administration, culture, sports and also managers, coordinators, teachers, coaches and professionals of various departments of the community center and some members of the Board.
The presentation was made by professionals from the Youth and Education Department of the institution, Jenny Mahfoda, David Kaufman and Tomas Glasermann; who used supporting materials for their explanations, such as videos, photos and maps. At the end there was time for questions and answers and reflections of the participants.
These meetings are important for non-Jewish workers, especially in a country as Venezuela, where all the governmental press is anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish ideas are instilled daily. A possibility to know the other side of the information, and to raise questions and discuss views is important at this time of distress and violence in our world.”
3. Israel on My Mind by Michael Feinstein, CEO, JCC of Grater Washington, Marylnad, USA
“Summer at the Center is typically filled with the joyous sounds of children playing in our camp and is an opportunity for me to catch up on projects and prepare for the new program year. But this summer was different. The wonderful ruckus of camp happened as usual and it was an exceptionally good camp summer on many fronts. But, while I was physically here, my mind and heart were in Israel. I was focused on the tragic, unfathomable kidnappings and murders of Israeli and Palestinian teens, the conflict with Hamas and the brazen anti-Semitism on display throughout many parts of the world. The lightness of summer became heavy as I focused on what I could do, and what the Center could do, to support Israel during this difficult time.
I am very aware that every Jew has his or her own relationship with Israel. From my personal perspective, I make a clear distinction between specific policies of the Israeli government, which I may or may not support, and my steadfast support of Israel’s right of self-defense. So, I can’t say that I was surprised when a member called to complain about our promoting the “Stand Strong for Israel Rally” that was held downtown. The member felt that as a community center, taking a “political” stand for Israel is not part of our mission. I shared that as a Jewish Community Center, our mission statement includes “connecting the people of our Jewish community with Israel” and that the idea that “all Jews are responsible for one another” (Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh) is inherent in our core values. For the JCCGW, standing with Israel when it is under attack is not political. We agreed to disagree.
The conversation prompted me to consider how the Center should live its mission and values, besides promoting the rally. Camp JCC, with its 500 campers and 250 staff, offered the perfect opportunity to create connections to Israel and help develop a love of Israel. Our four Israeli counselors (shlichim) were worried about their families and friends in Israel, some of whom were being called up as reservists. The camp organized a “Stand with Israel” program in which each Israeli counselor spoke about growing up in Israel and their love for their country, followed by the singing of Israeli songs. Subsequently, our campers created cards to send to Israeli soldiers and signs to hang throughout the building. I was proud that we created such a positive experience for campers while emotionally supporting our shlichim.
In conjunction with the Israeli Embassy, we also hosted an evening of solidarity and prayer that was attended by an overflow crowd of more than 350. You could hear a pin drop as Israelis and American Jews solemnly listened to the recitation of Psalms and heard from community leaders and embassy personnel. At that moment, you could feel that we were standing together as one community and were making a positive difference just by being there.
Elan Arnowitz, a sophomore at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, recently approached me to ask if the JCCGW would host “ISRAELRave,” a dance for high school students to raise money for the Israel Emergency Campaign. I was thrilled by his initiative and that the Center could assist our teen community to stand with Israel.
For me, being supportive meant doing lots of “little” things. None of them seemed sufficient but in totality, I felt that I was doing all that I could. I attended the rally downtown and our solidarity evening at the Center, contributed to our Federation’s Israel Emergency Campaign, and connected with my friends and colleagues in Israel. I even downloaded the Red Alert (Tzeva Adom) app which alerted me with a vibration every time a missile was launched from Gaza. There were times when my phone vibrated non-stop, distracting me from whatever I was doing. And that was exactly my intention, as it kept me from feeling that life was normal when I knew it wasn’t for my friends in Israel. What’s left is for me to stand with Israel, in Israel, which I hope to do by participating in a solidarity mission this fall.
By the time you read this, the ceasefire will either have turned into a longer truce or rockets will be flying again. If this conflict has taught us anything, it’s that the situation can change from day to day and hour to hour. And even if there is calm, there are many new human service needs to be addressed in Israel.
Rosh Hashanah will soon be upon us and we will wish each other L’shana Tova Tikatevu – May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for a good year. May it be a good year for you and your family and may it be a good year, and a year of peace, for our families and friends in Israel.”
* Originally published here.
The Jewish Cultural Canter KEDEM in Chisinau, Moldova, was established by JDC in 2005, as an integral part of the Kishinev Jacobs Jewish Center, the largest ethno-cultural institution in the republic.
“It has been a very busy summer for us” says Michael Finckel, Financial-Economic manager. “All throughout the summer we had many camps: Family and Integration camps in June; Youth and Tolerance camps with 100 participants in each camp taking place in August; and two programs, one for young kids and one post camp program for madrihim (counselors), in cooperation with the Szarvas international camp in Hungary, with which we have had cooperation from 2009.” Indeed, it has been a busy summer yet there are many events throughout the year.
About 6,000 visitors come through your door each year. Anything special about the Jewish facilities in your community?
One of our goals for this year is the upgrade and redesign of our premises. We are involved in redesigning a unique Museum for Jewish Heritage. Just this year, the museum won three grants from Rotary club in Seattle (USA), the Rothschild Fund (Great Britain) and Anna Frank Fund (Switzerland). We constantly hold exhibitions within the JCC dedicated to Jewish holidays, main events of the year, including joint events with Embassies, international NGOs, local state structures and foreign partners.
Your JCC was established by JDC which celebrates this year its’ centennial. Are there any special events planned?
A big event dedicated to the JDC jubilee is planned for November 6 in one of the most prestigious halls of Chisinau. Most of our programs, including camps, had a special track dedicated to JDC. We opened an exhibition dedicated to the JDC 100th Anniversary and 95 of its activities in Bessarabia/Moldova.
What are you plans for the upcoming year?
We had some very attractive and nice events like Open Air concert by Chamber orchestra from Finland, new program Family Sunday with cadets-volunteers from USA and USA Independence Day conducted with support of the US Embassy in Moldova. We have been working intensively on the plans for the rest of the year: A traditional Open Air concert with Spanish conductors for the Independence Day of Moldova (end of August); program dedicated to Yiddish writers shot by Stalinist regime in 1952; Open Day of the JCC in September; Global Day of Jewish Learning in November; music competition for teenagers named after Z. Tcach in December and of course all of the Jewish holidays.
Our attention will also be dedicated to developing the Mekor Rock Project – a joint project with the Jewish communities of Caracas in Venezuela, Emek Hefer in Israel, Tanefly in New Jersey USA and two centers in Romania (Bucaresti and Timisoara). We will be working on this project in the upcoming two years and are very excited about it and our new partners from around the globe.
In Jewish tradition, the entire Book of Jonah is read on Yom Kippur. We recently focused our Amitim– Fellows webinar on this book and were challenged by Dr. Micha Goodman to think whether Judaism is first and foremost a religion or a nation. David Ben Gurion writes about this topic in one of his essays (In the book Netzach Israel, 1964): “The Book of Jonah is dedicated to the idea that the mercy of God is given equally to all people, including idolatrous nations such as the people of Nineveh. God said to Jonah: “You have been concerned about the castor plant (the plant that God erected to give shade to Jonah and then the next day the plant was attacked by a worm) though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people? (The Book of Jonah, chapter 4, 10-11.) The concept of God in Judaism signifies the essence of good, beauty, justice and truth. Human life is important and holy. Human beings who were born in the image of God were created equally. And this is why the Bible rests on one main idea: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus, 19:18.) It does not apply only to Jews. It is a universal concept that begins from times immemorial as in the words of King Solomon when he inaugurated the Temple:
“Moreover concerning the foreigner, who is not of your people Israel…when he shall come and pray toward this house… that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, to fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by your name.” (Kings 1, Chapter 8, 41-42.)
As it seems the world needs a lot of healing during this holiday season, let us derive from the Book of Jonah the lessons of humanism and acts of love and kindness.
Gmar Hatima Tova and Shana Tovah!
Your friends at JCC Global