The fall of Communism and the dissolution of the former Soviet Union galvanize JDC in efforts to rebuild and reinvigorate Jewish communities throughout the region, and to assist Soviet Jewry in rediscovering their Jewish heritage. JDC responds to emergency situations in the Balkans and helps to rescue Jews from Ethiopia and elsewhere. JDC works extensively in Vienna and Rome to support a comprehensive relief program for Soviet Jewish émigrés in transit awaiting visas for Western countries.
Partners with Ronald S. Lauder Foundation to found International Summer Camp in Hungary
The International Summer Camp in Szarvas, Hungary, a unique Jewish educational summer camp under the auspices of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and JDC, garners a worldwide reputation for the legendary “Szarvas experience.” Szarvas, which serves over 2,000 Jewish campers from over 25 countries each summer, enhances and nurtures the Jewish identity and education of an entire generation of post-Communist Eastern European youth. Moreover, JDC’s international community development team runs year-round training seminars for madrichim (youth leaders) and other segments of the Hungarian community at Szarvas.
Supports La Benevolencija in Sarajevo
La Benevolencija, a Jewish cultural and humanitarian society, is formed by members of the Sarajevo Jewish community who remain in the city while it is under siege by Serb forces and the Yugoslav People’s Army, from 1992-1996. During the first two years of the siege, the non-sectarian society, staffed by Jewish, Croatian, Serbian, and Muslim volunteers, opens three free pharmacies and a first-aid clinic, prepares meals, starts its own post office and radio connection, and provides free apartments to Bosnian refugees. La Benevolencija receives financial support from JDC and raises additional funds from JDC’s Open Mailbox for Yugoslavia, relief organizations, and governments around the world to send over 1,500 tons of clothing, food, and medicine into Bosnia and Belgrade. JDC also provides assistance to transmigrants. JDC’s emergency aid to the former Yugoslavia during its civil war gives way to its efforts to assist in the long process of reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Provides funds for airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel
Between 1981 and 1989, JDC maintains a lifeline to the Ethiopian Jews in the north of Ethiopia. After the Israeli Embassy reopens in 1990, thousands of Jews hoping to go to Israel pour into Addis Ababa. JDC immediately opens humanitarian and medical services to help them. With civil war worsening, Israel carries out an airlift, termed “Operation Solomon,” of over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel, which is completed in 36 hours, with 34 Israeli aircraft involved in non-stop flights. JDC plays a major role in preparing and organizing the airlift. Subsequently, JDC facilitates the emigration of some 6,000 additional Jews from Ethiopia’s isolated Quara region and organizes programs to boost the health and well-being of the Felas Mora, Ethiopians of Jewish ancestry, who are living in poverty in Addis Ababa and Gondar City, awaiting Israeli government processing of their requests to settle in Israel.
Develops eye treatment clinic in Zimbabwe
In partnership with Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, other governmental and local bodies, and international foundations, JDC establishes a two-year comprehensive eye care project to provide treatment and education in the Mashonaland Central Province. In addition to providing local medical personnel with training in the latest opthamological techniques, the project includes a full-service eye clinic at Bindura Provincial Hospital; a mobile unit to provide outpatient and minor surgical care in outlying areas; training and prevention programs for village health workers; and a glasses production unit.
Receives $10 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for non-sectarian food assistance in former Soviet Union
JDC is one of the first non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to apply to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $165 million initiative to provide food aid to the former Soviet Union. JDC receives $10 million to distribute food aid and technical assistance in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the areas deemed by the U.S.D.A. to be in greatest need. JDC is the first NGO to establish a distribution system and ship food packages and institutional supplies to the former Soviet Union under the terms of the U.S.D.A. program.
JDC continues its multifaceted support for the massive waves of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union.
JDC’s response to the fluid transmigrant situation dramatically evolves to support the soaring numbers of Soviet Jews—over 100,000—who are in transit at emigration processing centers in Rome and Vienna. In addition to these basic care and maintenance services, which include housing assistance, medical care, social services, food and allowances, and housing assistance in Ostia and Ladispoli, JDC offers transmigrants an array of educational, religious and cultural programs, designed both to raise awareness of Jewish and Israeli history and culture and to facilitate acculturation into new societies.
Returns to Cuba
A change in Cuban law offering Cubans protection against religious discrimination enables JDC to reenter Cuba in 1992, where it provides food packages and religious supplies to the community, as well as opening a free community pharmacy that dispenses affordable medications on a non-sectarian basis.
Arranges evacuation convoys after war breaks out in Bosnia and Herzegovina
After the outbreak of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in April 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina secede from Yugoslavia. The Sarajevo Jewish community appeals to JDC to organize an immediate evacuation. With the assistance of Bosnian and Herzegovinian Jewish leaders, JDC begins a series of 11 convoys, evacuating over 2,100 Muslims, Christians, and Jews from Sarajevo to Belgrade, Serbia, Split, Croatia, and other locations.
Creates European Center for Jewish Leadership initiative
Leatid Europe—The European Center for Jewish Leadership (ECJL) leadership development initiative is created in partnership with the European Council of Jewish Communities, local European Jewish communities, World Jewish Relief (UK), and France’s Fonds Social Juif Unifié (also established with support from JDC). It offers Jewish leaders from Europe and the former Soviet Union opportunities to hone their management and strategic skills and to expand their Jewish knowledge.
Establishes first Jewish community-based welfare center in former Soviet Union
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the subsequent deterioration of its economy, JDC initiates a massive relief program to assist a population overwhelmingly affected by these developments: needy Jewish elderly living on a fixed income. Hesed Avraham, JDC’s first community-based welfare center in the former Soviet Union, opens in 1993. It recruits 900 volunteers and offers a wide range of social services and Jewish renewal programs for the elderly, including a pensioners’ club, programs for the hearing and visually impaired, regular visits by trained personnel to homebound Jewish elderly, and an emergency telephone hotline. Subsequently, JDC establishes Hesed facilities in cities such as Kiev, Odessa, Minsk, and Moscow over the next two years. The organization continues to offer guidance and expertise in rebuilding needed services and infrastructure and reconnecting Soviet Jews to their Jewish heritage.
Sustains exodus of Syrian Jewish community
In October of 1994, Syria’s Chief Rabbi Avraham Hamra arrives in Israel, thereby concluding a secret exodus which began in December 1947 and brought over 3,800 Syrian Jews to Israel. After providing two initial grants in 1948, JDC begins a program of monthly assistance to the Syrian Jewish community. By the time this assistance program ends in 1994, JDC has allocated over $10 million for its rescue. In the accompanying image, Ralph Goldman, Honorary Executive Vice President of JDC, greets Rabbi Abraham Hamra, Chief Rabbi of the Syrian Jewish Community.
Opens Balint JCC in Budapest
A resource center and a Jewish “home,” the Balint Jewish Community Center (JCC) serves as a community hub for Jewish activities, enabling all sectors of the community to discover and express their Jewish identity. The Balint JCC also emphasizes cooperation and partnerships with civil society groups and individuals within the Jewish community. It provides 39 weekly social and vocational programs which attract more than 3,450 participants each month.
Renovates Jewish Home for the Aged in Tunis
The renovated Jewish Home for the Aged in the Tunis suburb of La Goulette is dedicated. JDC provides on-going financial and professional assistance and supports a major renovation to this vital institution. The Jewish Home cares for needy elderly Jews and community members who need short-term emergency or post-hospital care.
Founds early education and childhood development initiative for Ethiopian-Israeli children
In partnership with Jewish Federations in the U.S., JDC founds PACT (Parents and Children Together), an initiative designed to address Ethiopian-Israeli preschoolers’ educational and developmental needs. PACT is a pioneer among efforts aimed at closing social gaps and enabling Ethiopian-Israelis to improve their academic success by addressing the unique cultural and language barriers they face. PACT’s accomplishments spur the development of PACT Plus and Birth-to-Bagrut, which extend the program’s benefits to older children.
Creates Ashalim partnership with Israeli government and UJA- Federation of NY
An innovative partnership among JDC, the Israeli government, and UJA-Federation of New York leads to the establishment of ASHALIM, an organization dedicated to the development and implementation of services for children- and youth-at-risk in Israel. Its model combines a host of preventative and therapeutic programs under one roof, which emphasize cooperation with families and communities. Some of ASHALIM’s services include working with expectant parents, pioneering comprehensive community services to prevent and detect abuse, helping residents of battered women’s shelters strengthen their parenting skills, creating a network of supervised visitation centers for children of divorced parents, and supporting alternative residential and regional emergency facilities.
First Jewish Community Center (JCC) of post-Communist era established in Bulgaria
Beit Ha’am is the first Jewish Community Center (JCC) to be established in Sofia, Bulgaria, in the post-Communist era with JDC support. It becomes the setting for an ever-expanding range of programs instituted by Shalom, the Organization of Bulgarian Jews, such as classes, youth groups, summer camps, a kosher kitchen and social service activities for pensioners.
Provides relief to Venezuelan flood victims
JDC partners with Mercy Corps International and La Hebraica, an agency of the Venezuelan Jewish Community, to strengthen the disaster relief expertise of local NGOs and to help those displaced by the flooding to find jobs in their new areas of residence.
Dedication of Jewish Community Center in Bombay
JDC establishes a Jewish Community Center in Bombay. The center includes a Jewish library, youth leadership programs, a golden age club, a Hebrew School for young children, and informal Jewish education programs.
Renders humanitarian aid in Kosovo
After the war in Kosovo, JDC begins to implement an array of humanitarian programs throughout Kosovo. It partners with local builders to repair damage to schools. Subsequently, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) asks JDC to undertake reconstruction of all educational institutions in Pristina, where the Jewish population resides. Eventually, JDC repairs and renovates 40 public schools in Kosovo. In addition, it outfits computer labs and sets up free English and computer classes, taught by local teachers and organized in cooperation with ORT and local bodies. In partnership with the Catholic Church and Kosovo’s Islamic community, JDC helps in the restoration of the Shiponje mosque. The rededication of the mosque took place on September 7, 2001, an event attended by many Kosovo dignitaries, including Amb. John Menzies, the former head of the U.S. Office in Kosovo. JDC also provides support to the Multiethnic Children and Youth Peace Center (MCYPC) in Mitrovica, a northern town divided by a river into Serbian and Albanian sections. The MCYPC runs a day-care program for children of all ethnicities (including other Kosovar minorities such as Bosnians and Roma), publishes a youth magazine, and produces a radio program, written by Serbian and Albanian children under the tutelage of trained journalists.