What does the JDC do?
There is absolutely no way I would be able to describe all of the things JDC does. If you’ve talked to me in the past few months, I’ve described JDC’s work in many different ways. Mostly as a humanitarian aid organization, but they truly are so much more. Here is a (as brief as I possibly could do) overview of some of JDC’s programs – from my perspective. I am leaving things out and not doing justice to this work. If something is intriguing, or interesting to you, or you want to really hear more, please let me know and I’ll make sure to share or connect you.
While in the NYC Headquarters, I met with people who are working in various parts of the organization, many of these people work with departments that are global. Keep in mind JDC has a global budget of $350 million, which is massive. A question that I raised in NY and I continue to consider is how, when given all the JDC does and such a large budget, do you prioritize and plan to serve everyone. This is something that I’ve been intrigued by and explored during my time sitting on an allocations committee for the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit. Making these decisions is never easy, but also important to have goals, values, and a direct mission. My meetings in New York centered on learning very big picture of how JDC functions, everything from Legal, to HR, Resource Development, and the C-suite.
Entwine is housed in NYC, meaning the majority of its staff work from there. Entwine is the department working to engage young adults. It is important to recognize why this work is a part of JDC as its not direct care work as most of the rest of the departments will highlight. Building awareness, connection, and developing Jewish identity are all part of what Entwine does. Entwine is where my fellowship is “housed” and beyond that where young adults can find some pretty amazing opportunities for year long, multi-week, or week long trips. I’ll have the opportunity to join at least one if not pop in to more insider trips this year, so check them out. Check them out here.
One of the hidden gems of the JDC is recognizing the amount of research and resources that are stored in their archives. If you are interested in history or discovering any of your own connections to JDC, just take a look in their archives. There is even a place where you can search a name and see if JDC has helped a family member through the years (it’s not entirely complete, but you never know).
JDC Israel is really its own entity, with the departments I’ll describe below as individual pieces that make up the organization. In general JDC-Israel functions as a Research and Development part of the Israeli government. The government of Israel and JDC have a longstanding partnership in which often the programs that JDC develops are funded majorly by JDC in the beginning, with some help from the government. Over time, and when program have shown success, these programs slowly become government funded programs and JDC backs out of them so that local communities can own and run them.
Tevet works on workforce development. They have various areas from training in Haredi or ultra-orthodox communities and Arab-Israeli communities, to job placement, skills and vocational classes etc. This arm is one that is of great interest to me, given the work I’ve been doing in this industry.
Care for the elderly. There are numerous areas this area focuses on, but what I’ll focus on is their work with Holocaust survivors. We all know that within a short amount of time we will no longer have the option of hearing firsthand accounts and survivor stories of the Holocaust. What impact does that have on creating and building Jewish identities? Two programs stand out to me amongst many. A theatre project where Holocaust survivors are paired with high school students to work together and develop a play through the survivors telling their stories and the teens acting it out. HOW COOL. The second is also quite moving, photography classes the seniors learn photography and then work to develop and set up a picture that somehow represents their own story. I was able to flip through and read a book full of these pictures and it’s truly incredible. I’m sure I’ll come back to this, but we should be doing as much as we can to record in various ways as many of these stories as we can.
Okay so this one is a little hard to explain, however the work they are doing is really intriguing and important. Elka works on leadership development, but specifically with government, municipality, and city leaders to provide real skills in governance, big picture thinking, and work with people in areas of need to better understand how to set up and develop infrastructure. I was specifically excited to learn about the work they are doing developing in East Jerusalem, and able to visit and better understand how making changes really begins at a small level to create larger infrastructure change.
JDC’s work with at-risk youth. At risk can mean a lot of things, from developing nursery programs, after school, vocational opportunities, and more recently expanded their services to up to the age of 25 instead of 18 given that 18-25 year olds who were recipients of care often need services post 18, additionally we know that young people are still developing during this age.
Working across the spectrum of people with disabilities. The idea of making Israel truly unlimited, without limitations for anyone. The types of programs they work on really cover the gamut of issues and look to work together with government and businesses to make Israel very accessible.
FSU (Former Soviet Union)
One-third of the work JDC does happens here, providing resources and programs for some of the world’s neediest Jews. It is pretty unbelievable. JDC helps to keep seniors alive through food packages, home care, and being a presence on the ground through community centers and on the ground programs. Additionally, a ton of work is being done in Jewish renewal, with families and young people only finding out they have Jewish roots now and finding ways to teach and engage. When speaking about global Jewish community it really often feels like this is an area we should be paying a lot more attention to.
EUROPE, AFRICA, ASIA, / LATIN AMERICA
A lot of the work JDC does in these parts of the world is less focused on direct care and local organizations and more so in the area of connecting and providing resources. Likely I’ll share more on some of these throughout the year, but don’t get me wrong, do not think that the amount and scope of work is different based on how much I wrote ;).
JDC’s non-sectarian and disaster work is mainly done through GRID (Disaster Relief, Recovery, and Development Programs). When a natural disaster occurs, JDC decides what type of relief effort it will help provide. JDC has the resources and often expertise to help navigate at such times, much like the overall strategy of JDC they are always working with the local community and with the intention of handing services back over to the local community over time.
I know this is a lot, but I just felt like I wanted to share some of what I learned and as a major overview of the incredible amount of work JDC does, as I mentioned before, this isn't even all of it!!!