Paul Anticoni writes about the difficult decision he faced last Rosh Hashanah.
Our Rosh Hashanah appeal in October 2016 featured Svetlana from Odessa, Ukraine. She is the sweetest lady you can possibly imagine and it's heartbreaking to see the conditions she lives in; her ceiling is mouldy, her walls rotten and the apartment is riddled with damp. Recently during a visit from one of our team, her window pane suddenly fell out altogether. We want to repair her home and give her warmth, safety and dignity. It’s a practical and life-saving response to an unacceptable situation that so many of our extended Jewish family faces in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.
This is what World Jewish Relief does every day of the week, year in, year out. We support the world’s poorest Jewish communities, mostly in the Former Soviet Union. If an older person like Svetlana needs help fixing their home, we fix it; if someone’s lonely, we bring them into the community; or if they lack the means to provide basics for themselves, such as food or medicine, we’re there to provide for them. Not only that, we make sure the next generation won't face the same travails in their old age, so we help younger people find employment and escape the cycle of poverty.
But this year, just days after we launched our Rosh Hashana appeal, something happened that forced us to challenge our priorities. I’m sure you all saw the devastation that Hurricane Matthew wrought in Haiti. Hundreds died, whole towns were swept away, with tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes. World Jewish Relief is proud to lead the Jewish community’s response to international disasters, showing the world that we care for those beyond our own community but now we had a decision to make...if we appealed for Haiti, would we still raise enough money from our Rosh Hashanah appeal to fix Svetlana’s home and the homes of others like her?
For us ‘an emergency’ is both international disasters where we help people whose lives are devastated by a catastrophic event and it's everyday emergencies such as as being old and impoverished and having to choose between food and medicine. No individual is more or less deserving than another.
So we appealed to help Haiti and provide immediate recovery needs such as food and shelter. And we redoubled our efforts on our Rosh Hashanah appeal so that thanks to the generosity of supporters like you, we were able to help in both contexts. We will continue to do what we have done since 1933; support people who are facing an emergency every single day. We couldn’t do all that we do without your help.
For more on our work in Haiti following the devastation cause by Hurricane Matthew, read this report from Mireille Flores, our Humanitarian Programmes Manager.