In the face of a new, socially distant pandemic reality, thousands of Jews worldwide managed to enjoy JDC-supported holiday programming for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Nearly 9,000 elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union who receive life-saving services from JDC once again got packages of food and traditional holiday items, including apples and honey. Delivered in line with the strictest health measures, the food helps connect these seniors with the global Jewish community during this especially isolating year. This annual tradition is made possible by JDC through its partners: Jewish Federations, the Claims Conference, and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

“At the heart of all we do are communities that inspire and engage, care and comfort, and are dedicated to making the Jewish New Year a sweeter one than the year before,” said Mark Sisisky, JDC president, and Asher Ostrin, interim CEO. “The pandemic has forced us to innovate to a new reality and find community in new spaces that have proven to be a draw for those who were already part of our community, and those seeking new meaning and connection.”

To that end, virtual gatherings included educational seminars, art and cooking workshops, concerts and festivals for families.

A JDC cooking workshop prior to the start of Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 18, 2020. Credit: Courtesy.

In Mogilev, Belarus, children received DIY kits to create their own holiday greeting cards that were delivered to isolated, elderly community members, while in Kiev, Ukraine, community members with disabilities participated in a workshop to create holiday fruit-and-honey bouquets.

Meanwhile, Jewish community volunteers who are part of JDC’s network of volunteer centers—supported by the Genesis Philanthropy Group—in places like Novosibirsk, Russia and Lviv, Ukraine, delivered holiday packages to poor homebound seniors who are alone without family to share the holiday.

In Poland, with many in-person events canceled, the JDC-supported JCC Warsaw hosted an educational webinar for adults to help prepare them for celebrating Rosh Hashanah in their own homes, while in Jurmala, a city outside Riga, Latvia, Rosh Hashanah programming included numerous adult lectures, a kid’s program, a festive dinner, kid’s performances and live music.

In Estonia, programming has been adjusted so events will take place in small, socially distanced groups, including an upcoming Sukkot celebration where kids and parents will meet to learn about the holiday, cook a traditional meal and make seasonal arts-and-crafts projects.

Meanwhile, in India, community members will participate in a High Holidays seminar that will cover Jewish texts, the meaning behind the holidays and a look at the holiday of Simchat Torah.

Entwine, JDC’s young adult platform, offered several High Holiday virtual events, including a dedicated holiday edition of “Off the Shelf,” its virtual book-club series, and a presentation of EntwineNosh, an ongoing cooking demonstration and discussion series, which featured traditional Rosh Hashanah dishes from Peru and El Salvador.

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