5 things we learned from the CEO of JDC

Yesterday David Schizer, the CEO of Federation partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), spoke to Federation staff about JDC’s work around the globe, illustrating the reach of a gift to the global Jewish community through Federation.

From building community for young Jews in Hungary, to monitoring the financial crisis in Venezuela, here are five takeaways from David’s presentation:

1. 80% of kids who go to Jewish summer camp in rural Hungary become leaders in their Jewish community.

Every summer, young Jews from 20 countries travel to rural Hungary to attend Camp Szarvas. For many campers, Szarvas serves as their first encounter with Judaism.

“Because of Camp Szarvas, I knew at age 12 that I wanted to work with the Jewish community…This background helped me become a part of the team that worked on opening the first Jewish elementary school in Croatia (and the former Yugoslavia) since WWII.”
– Maya Cimes, Jewish Educator, Croatia

2. Yes, kids in the former Soviet Union are still just learning about their Jewish heritage.

David shared one family’s story:

After his grandfather’s death, a child received a phone call from a family member he hadn’t met, who claimed they lived in Israel. The child was confused—isn’t Israel where Jewish people live? His family wasn’t Jewish. The child’s mother took the phone and continued the conversation in hushed tones.

“Two things,” she said after she hung up. “First of all, dinner is ready. Second of all, you’re Jewish.”

3. JDC is removing barriers to employment in Israel.

The number of Ultra-Orthodox men participating in the workforce rose to historical levels, thanks to JDC-powered employment centers run by and for Haredi communities. In the Arab-Israeli community, JDC is spearheading programming that helps families see the benefits of women in the community seeking jobs.

4. There’s a financial crisis in Venezuela, and Jews are impacted.

The once robust Jewish population of Venezuela has dwindled from 20,000 to less than 5,000. Many of them are desperate, and JDC is working with them as best they can—but the Venezuelan government’s hostility toward the Jewish community complicates things.

5. A little goes a long way for elderly folks in the former Soviet Union.

$21 can buy food and medicine for an isolated senior for one month—literally saving their life.