A young girl lights a hanukkia.
(photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
As Jewish families get together to light Hanukka candles around the world this week, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee launched its GiveOneNight campaign aiming to raise awareness and provide assistance to Jewish children in need.
The campaign calls on Jewish families around the world to discuss the issue of global Jewish poverty at the family table as well as choose one night to donate to needy Jewish children instead of giving presents.
“By engaging the Jewish community in a global conversation on the critical challenges facing Jews in need, we are embracing Hanukka’s tradition of bringing light into the darkness and ensuring that tens of thousands of poor Jews are not forgotten,” said JDC CEO Alan H. Gill.
On the JDC’s campaign website, board members, past participants of the Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps – a yearlong volunteer service opportunity – and participants of the Ambassador program provided stories about their experience helping impoverished Jewish children.
The stories shared came from firsthand experiences with needy children in Siberia, Hungary, Ukraine, Haiti, Bulgaria, India, Uzbekistan and Israel.
“It is hard to imagine how cold it was, but we wanted to see how JDC operates in the toughest conditions and how they truly are not leaving any Jew behind,” Ruth and David Musher, JDC ambassadors from New York shared about their trip to Siberia. “We visited a mother and her son in their home in 2012. It was a small hut, with a wood burning stove that provided heat and permitted cooking. Outside it was 15 degrees Fahrenheit [minus 9 degrees centigrade]. There was no running water or indoor plumbing and the paint was peeling. As important as this visit in the dead of winter was to this family, the impression it left upon us was enduring.
“Love exists even in the harshest conditions. The work of the JDC enables tikkun olam, repair of the world,” they added.
Another story, shared by Holli Rafkin-Sax, a JDC ambassador from Westchester, on a trip to visit needy children in Ukraine and Hungary.
“Who knew there are still 300,000 and 130,000 Jews living in those countries now, and that the shtetls I’ve read about in Sholem Aleichem stories exist today – with no running water, incredible cold in winter and Jews who get together with JDC to sing and find comfort?” she shared. “How can you do anything but have hope in the future when you see their faces?” The campaign also aims to encourage Jewish families to share and spread their stories on social media, using the hashtag #GiveOneNight.
“We’re fortunate to have a strong foundation for this work in our Board, Jewish Federations, the Claims Conference, World Jewish Relief, foundations, individual supporters and our operational partner Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and IFCJ [International Fellowship of Christians and Jews] – we want to harness that momentum and involve the whole Jewish community in this endeavor,” Gill said.