New Conversations

Every conversation is the start of a new adventure. A simple 'Hello' has more potential and impact than many of us think. It is the start of new dialogue, a new encounter, a new relationship. Make it meaningful!

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Photo Description

Top: Group picture of the participants of the seminar

Middle Left: Team building games - human knot

Middle Right: Participants during a session

Bottom Left: Bust of the Vilna Goan, marking the site of the synagogue he went to.

Bottom Middle: Building that housed the Judenrat

Bottom Right: Balcony where Theodore Hertzl gave a speech.

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Photo Descriptions

Top: Megillat Esther in Russian, Russian Transliterations and Hebrew

Middle Left: Megillah reading at the Synagogue in Riga

Middle Right: Megillah reading at the Synagogue in Riga

Bottom Left: On the right is a mishloachmanah that I handed out  for Purim and on the right is flowers and box of chocolates for International Women’s Day.  

Bottom Right: Introductions by Gita Umanskov, Executive Director of the Riga Jewish Community and Ms. Hagit Ben-Yaakov, Israeli Ambassador to Latvia.  At the Purim Shpeil for the Jewish Community.  

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Photo Descriptions

Top: Teens’ interpretations of their thoughts on Israel through drawings

Bottom Left: Fun activity that taught the geography of Israel.  Teens had to push objects on to specified cities in order to advance to the next task.

Bottom Right: Crossing the Negev activity. 

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Photo Descriptions

Top: In the middle of the workshop for the young Ukrainian Jewish leaders

Middle Left: The young Ukrainian Jewish leaders and Jewish youth professionals

Middle Right: Shabbat Dinner with Jewish young adults of the community.  At Naomi and Amy’s Apartment. 

Bottom Left: Statue of Shalom Aleichem, outside of the Shalom Aleichem Museum

Bottom Right: Apartment that Golda Meir, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel, lived in before she immigrated to the States.

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JDC’s Elderly Welfare program in Riga, adapted from the successful FSU Hesed welfare program, provides medical and nutritional assistance to needy elderly Jews in Riga and the surrounding region. The financial crisis of 2008 has increased demand for the program’s services, as many families can no longer provide assistance to elderly relatives and government anti-crisis measures have resulted in pension cuts of 10-20%. These cuts were compounded by an across the board increase in taxes which has dramatically reduced the quality of life of Riga’s elderly.

In order to help Riga’s elderly deal with the crisis, the Elderly Welfare program has opened a number of Day Centers where elderly community members receive warm meals and psychological support. In addition, in 2010 a number of new welfare professionals were successfully integrated into Riga’s welfare operations in order to meet the growing need.

Today, the Welfare Center is an integral part of the survival of the Riga Jewish community and with that vital function it was only appropriate that it had been brought up to date.  After several months of construction, the Welfare Center moved into a beautiful new space, with two multipurpose rooms, a small kitchen, vocational training rooms and new office space. 

Steve Schwager, JDC’s CEO and Executive Vice President, attended the Welfare Center Dedication Ceremony and recorded his experience in this Executive Report.  I get a shout-out in this letter.

Photo Descriptions

Top: Members of the community excitedly make there way into the newly renovated Welfare Center.

Middle Left: Plaque at the entrance into the Welfare Center.

Middle Right: Multipurpose room in the Welfare Center.

Bottom Left: Offices in the Welfare Center

Bottom Right: Members of the Community pose with JDC’s CEO and Executive Vice President, Steven Schwager and JDC’s Director of Europe and Latin American, Alberto Senderey 

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Repair The World - My Blog Entry

Repair the World is a non-profit that provides funding for the JDC’s Jewish Service Corps.  They work to inspire American Jews and their communities to give their time and effort to serve those in need.  Repair The World aims to make service a defining part of American Jewish life.  They focus on mobilizing Jews of all ages and backgrounds to serve with integrity and authenticity, ensuring that we leave the world a better place.  They work to develop high-quality service opportunities with real impact and build an inspired Jewish community engaged in service.

(Click on the title above)

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Making (Interfaith) Connections

I walked down the stairs into a trendy raw food restaurant.  I made my way to the back where I met Jordan.  Jordan, a Texan, works for YWAM Riga, an international volunteer movement of Christians from many backgrounds, cultures and Christian traditions.  I like to think of YWAM as the Christian JDC (even though it is not).  We sat and spoke for several hours about international service work, Israel and of course religion.  We left the restaurant satiated from the conversation and excited about the potential for interfaith service work between our communities. 

A few weeks later Jordan invited me to participate in a service project with other volunteers who were in Riga for a short time.  We walked around the city and handed sandwiches out to people on the streets.  The emotions displayed on the people’s faces  automatically changed from hopeless and pessimistic to joyous and cheery as we handed them the sandwiches.  It was an incredible and surreal experience.  

On the way back to the city center Jordan and I spoke about the work of YWAM in Riga.  On top of the service work they do in their community, they also advocate and bring attention to people with mental disabilities and human trafficking.  These two issues are hidden from the public, and not often discussed.  Fortunately there are people like Jordan who work to bring these atrocity to light.  

Here is a great video Jordan made that showcases the work of YWAM Riga.

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Compilation video from a teens’ club karaoke night.

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Video of the festivities from new years at the Monument of Freedom.  From more, please see the post below.