We start our mission with The Associated, the Jewish Federation of Baltimore, tomorrow here in
Here’s a brief historic context to what we’re looking at...
In the 1920s after the famine, JDC was helping to feed 600,000 Jews in the
Soviet Union. We
opened 400 orphanages.
In 1988 the Soviet regime turned to JDC and asked us to give support to Jewish elderly.
We demanded a written agreement, mindful of the possibility that we could get kicked out without such a commitment. We received, and have been in these countries since.
The aim at that time was to help Soviet Jews be Jewish.
There were no welfare programs or aims to erect buildings and centers.
The regime took care of peoples’ needs.
The pension was more or less a continuation of the same amount you received as a salary. Anyway, people knew very little and there was very little information.
Some of my colleagues in those first meetings tell a story of how, in one meeting, they opened up a map of the vast territory of the
We reached out to Jews where we found them.
We built hundreds of libraries, we brought in over a million books. The library concept didn’t always work – in some places the librarians closed the libraries because they were afraid that people would steal the books, in others they only opened the building for leadership.
But then the economic crisis started in the early 90s.
We were seeing hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands, who were selling everything they had on the streets in order to survive.
That’s when we started developing our welfare services...