This week, Russian-speaking senior citizens in Israel received uplifting and heartening phone calls from Jews in Ukraine and Moldova as part of a Joint Distribution Committee Israel-ESHEL project.
JDC Israel-ESHEL, aimed at strengthening the status of the elderly in society, in collaboration with the Welfare and Social Service Ministry, has for the past 15 years operated the “Warm Home” project for elderly immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The project aims to address the loneliness experienced by numerous Russian-speaking elderly by organizing get-togethers modeled after the social clubs of Jewish communities in the former USSR.
There are 290 “warm homes” catering to some 4,500 elderly operating throughout the country, which conduct regular social meetings at one of the group members’ homes.
Due to the security situation, the project has been put on hold and JDC Israel-ESHEL reported that many of the elderly have no one to share their feelings and concerns with during this difficult time.
As such, the global JDC organized Jewish volunteers from its extensive activities across the former Soviet Union and briefed them on the situation in Israel and on how to call and speak to Russian-speaking elderly in Israel in an effort to help and offer support.
“The phone calls were emotional to the point of tears for both sides and the Israeli recipients were so grateful,” said Sofia Borisov, director of the “War m Homes” project at JDC Israel – ESHEL. “During one of the calls there was a Color Red siren in Ashkelon that illustrated the situation in the country to the Moldavian caller and the incident brought about a deeper relationship between the two. In addition, the warm words of support and the familiar voice from home – it’s so simple, but so meaningful,” she said.
Borisov added that a majority of the volunteers are relatively older in age, and therefore were able to develop more meaningful discussions and form deeper relationships.
Some, she said, have continued speaking on Skype or via email.
“It is important to remember that the security situation in Ukraine is unstable and therefore there is a large common denominator here. There is no doubt that this just shows that the saying ‘all of Israel are responsible for one another’ indeed exists,” she said.
To date, JDC Israel has raised some NIS 4 million toward emergency assistance to the underprivileged populations in the South, especially toward the elderly, disabled, and children and youth at risk.