Continuing a tradition started before the fall of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and its network of volunteers will provide extra aid and traditional Rosh Hashanah treats, including apples and honey, to thousands of poor, elderly Jews in nations across the former Soviet Union.
The aid, which is provided by JDC through its partners the Claims Conference, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), the Jewish Federations, and other generous donors, will be distributed in hundreds of locations throughout the region where JDC will also hold scores of holiday events to mark the Jewish New Year.
“As we reflect on the past year and look ahead to the future, we should remember how fortunate we are and do what we can for the world’s poorest Jews — the elderly of the former Soviet Union,” said JDC CEO David M. Schizer. “As Jewish volunteers deliver apples and jars of honey, they are providing comfort to seniors who have lived unimaginably hard lives and building their communities for generations to come. We urge the wider Jewish community to join us in the coming year in caring for these elderly Jews and in the strengthening of the communities where they live.”
Elderly Jews in the region will be among hundreds of local Jews who will participate in JDC-organized Rosh Hashanah events. In addition to holiday lectures and concerts, cooking workshops and cultural performances, special holiday retreats for families and children will bring holiday traditions — like the sounding of the shofar, or ram’s horn, and learning blessing over apples and honey — to new generations of Jews.
The events will take place in JDC’s network of Jewish community centers, Hesed social-welfare centers and other local institutions. At the same time, volunteers will visit homebound elderly, offering holiday wishes and gifts.
In Kharkov, Ukraine, the “Every Home a Holiday” volunteer initiative will include dozens of seniors receiving guests to share in holiday traditions and greetings, while more than 300 people, including the local elderly, will attend Rosh Hashanah concerts, including music and dance performances, at Sha’are Tikvah Hesed social-welfare center.
In Gomel, Belarus, a multigenerational audience will learn about Jewish food traditions, including how to make holiday fare, while in Krasnodar, Russia, Jewish youth will attend a Rosh Hashanah bash at the Taki Da Jewish restaurant, where they will also learn about High Holiday traditions, play holiday quizzes, and perform songs and dances.
A 67-year-old man living in his hometown of Beltsy, Moldova, said “even in all my loneliness, I feel now I have a community and someone who cares enough to watch over me.”
Of the volunteers who deliver greetings for 5779, he said: “They are my hope.”