Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's going to be an amazing mission

I’m getting ready to go this weekend to Minsk, Belarus, for the Campaign Chairs and Directors (CCD) Mission with the Jewish Federations of North America. 

Belarus has fascinated me for a long time, because in so many ways, it’s a microcosm of the Jewish world. 
In every meaningful way – the challenges, the expectations, the horizons – what we see in Minsk is what’s happening around the Jewish world today.

Before the 1917 Soviet revolution, millions of Jews lived in Russia and the Pale of Settlement. 
Most of them lived pretty autonomous lives, set apart from their non-Jewish neighbors. 
Even secular Jews had a decent knowledge of Jewish tradition. But in the seventy years following the revolution, generations were cut off from Jewish tradition and memory.

With glasnost, the opening of society in the late 1980s, it was clear that there was no community, no organized Jewish life. JDC’s Minsk offices, opened in 1922 and closed by Stalin in 1931, were finally reopened in 1990; the first task was to locate and reach out to those Jews who were scattered throughout Belarus. Even though so many (and davka those with the most developed Jewish identities) left for Israel, Europe and the US, within just a few years there were synagogues, community programs, a Hesed program and much more.

And today, like in so many countries around the world, JDC does three things in Belarus:

(1)   We bring Relief to the poorest and most vulnerable Jews, with food, medical support, home care and other programs for thousands of elderly, struggling young families, youth at risk and the disabled.
(2)   We work for the Renewal of Jewish life with camps, retreats, celebrations, community festivals and more.
(3)   We develop tomorrow’s Jewish Leadership with programming and training.

It’s going to be an amazing mission.

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