Joint Distribution Committee, Midwest Federations will co-host July 21 event at Hyatt Regency
AJW Staff Report
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) will partner with Jewish Federations from around the Midwest in a July 21 “Global Symposium” titled “Doing Good: The Jewish Community’s Rescue, Relief and Renewal Around the World.”
The daylong symposium — registration begins 11:30 a.m., and the closing event is at 7 p.m. — will take place at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis.
JDC — which is popularly known as “the Joint” — is the international relief arm of the North American Jewish community, and is funded primarily by Jewish Federations.
The organization works in more than 70 countries and in Israel “to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, and provide immediate relief and long-term development support for victims of natural and man-made disasters,” according to a statement on its Web site (jdc.org).
The Minneapolis Jewish Federation and the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul are co-hosts of the July 21 symposium, along with the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the umbrella group of the federation system.
Alan Gill, CEO of the JDC, will participate in the symposium. He will be joined by young JDC relief workers from Kiev, Ukraine, and Budapest, Hungary.
“At a time of great challenge and opportunity for the Jewish people — from Ukraine to Hungary to Israel — I am looking forward to sharing with the Twin Cities Jewish community the work we are doing together to aid the neediest and infuse the Jewish future with strength and creative vitality,” said Gill, in a message sent to the AJW. “We are honored by our partnerships with the Minneapolis and St. Paul Jewish Federations and all we do to put into action the ideal that we are all responsible for one another.”
Discussion topics at the symposium will include: Jews at risk and plans for rescue; Israel’s internal challenges with Ethiopian Jews, people with disabilities, Arab Israelis and ultra-Orthodox Jews; and opportunities as a new generation of Jews “takes the reins in Europe and beyond.”
Alona, the JDC staff member in war-torn Ukraine, whose population of 46 million includes an estimated several hundred thousand Jews, will discuss the group’s crisis response. In Ukraine, and across the former Soviet Union, the JDC works in a humanitarian and Jewish community development capacity, caring for tens of thousands of Jewish elderly and poor families. The organization has helped rebuild Jewish community life and train a new generation of Jewish leaders since the fall of Communism.
Also, the symposium participants will learn about JDC’s partnership with Hungary’s Jewish community, whose population is estimated to be 120,000 Jews, out of the nation’s nearly 10 million people.
JDC provides thousands of Hungarian Jewish elderly — many of them Holocaust survivors (who receive aid and services through Claims Conference funding) — with hot meals, home care, winter relief and medical attention. Additionally, JDC aids poor, at-risk youth and their families through social services and financial support.
JDC is also works to revitalize Jewish life in Hungary with innovative learning opportunities like Judafest, a renowned Jewish cultural street festival; pluralistic educational and cultural programs at the Balint JCC; and the renowned JDC-Lauder Szarvas International Summer Camp, which has fostered and trained the next generation of European and international Jewish leadership. Some 2,000 young Jews attend the camp every summer.
“We are excited to partner with JDC in bringing the global Jewish community to the Twin Cities this summer,” said Steve Silberfarb, CEO of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation. “The collective work we are doing together to improve, change and save Jewish lives in 70 countries around the world is nothing short of inspirational. Through this Global Symposium, we will have the opportunity to share this unbelievable — and largely unknown — story with our local community, hopefully in turn creating a greater sense of Jewish peoplehood within the Twin Cities.”
Eli Skora, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul, said, “This symposium offers a great opportunity to learn first-hand about the important work our community supports worldwide. Together, we really do make a difference where our help is needed most.”
The symposium co-chairs are Charlie Nauen, Steve and Nancy Schachtman, and Yoav Segal. The Minnesota Rabbinical Association will be represented by co-chairs Rabbi Avi S. Olitzky and Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker.
For information on the July 21 symposium contact, the JDC’s Rebecca Neuwirth at 212-885-0878, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(American Jewish World, 7.4.14)