The American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee (JDC) distributes matza to elderly jews in Odessa, Ukraine..
(photo credit: JDC)
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has noted a significant rise in Jewish volunteering efforts throughout Europe and the former Soviet Union this summer, with an increase in camping activities geared toward contributing to community life and helping those in need.
It noted that this is reflective of trends in the US, were the American Camp Association reported that half of American-based summer camps now offer community service activities.
“One of the most promising developments among the Jews of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is their enthusiastic desire to give back to the neediest and build Jewish communities through volunteerism,” JDC CEO David Schizer said on Tuesday.
In Odessa, Ukraine, for instance, the local Hesed social welfare center’s summer project Wings of Kindness deploys more than 100 youth volunteers to assist 3,000 homebound elderly.
The volunteers deliver groceries, engage in arts and crafts and Jewish activities, and even provide haircuts to boost the self-esteem of the seniors.
In Kishinev, Moldova, the volunteer camp project Be.Do.Have: Improve Yourself brings together 100 multigenerational volunteers to develop projects that will help to improve their community.
This summer, volunteers will visit lonely, homebound seniors to help them celebrate Shabbat, volunteer with young cancer patients at a local hospital, and prep a Jewish school for the upcoming school year. Volunteers learn about management and project administration, Jewish traditions, how to set goals and objectives correctly, and the best tools to build community.
In Bulgaria, the JDC-supported Bereshit family summer camp brings together 350 people, parents and children to engage in service at local orphanages, a center for people with disabilities, as well as cleaning local nature preserves and repainting park benches. Similar volunteer activities are held at Limmud Bulgaria and at Olameinu Mishpacha, a family summer camp in the Baltics.
“We’re proud that our summer experiences for children, young adults, and families are harnessing that passion and integrating it in a way that strengthens Jewish identity and society overall,” said Schizer.