Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey

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How We Make a Difference - December 2005

Jewish Cultural Center in Yaroslavl, Russia
Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey board member Barbara Rood has long been aware of and understood the importance of Federation’s overseas activities, but a recent trip to Russia really drove the point home for her.  Rood was visiting a small village called Yaroslavl during a boat ride from Moscow to St Petersburg, down the Russian River.  Yaroslavl is a poor, remote village, and its residents do not have many material goods.  When Rood and her husband arrived with their group, they encountered many elderly women selling rotten apples and sprigs of forest berries for small change.  As Rood did in many of the other villages she visited, she asked Laura, the group’s local tour guide, if there was Jewish life in Yaroslavl.  She explained to Laura that she is active at Federation, which allocates money to the Jewish American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) – an organization that serves the needs of Jews throughout the world.  Upon hearing Rood mention the JDC, Laura’s eyes lit up, according to Rood, and a smile that had been noticeably missing until then appeared on her face.  “She told me the ‘synagogue’ in Yaroslavl is their Jewish Cultural Center.  She explained that the Joint came to her village several years ago and taught the Jewish people there how to pray.  And she said that the Joint took care not only of soul, but of body.”  It turns out the JDC has been helping to care for Laura’s 92-year-old father, who had once been sent to Siberia by the Russian government, and does not have much money for food, heat and health care.  Laura explained to Rood just how important the Joint was to her father’s life, as well as to her own.  “At the end of the tour,” says Rood, “Laura turned to me with a smile and said ‘I am so happy to meet you.  Shalom.’  The experience filled me with so many different emotions, but most of all it made me so proud to be part of Federation, and part of a community that finds and cares for Jews in even the most remote regions of the world.”

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