IFCJ CELEBRATES 40 YEARS
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews Celebrates its decades-long partnership with the Joint in support of Jewish Communities in the Former Soviet Union.
TORONTO, Ont., March 20, 2023 — The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) is commemorating its 40th year of operations, and 20th in Canada (IFCJ Canada) this year. The global Fellowship has provided $1.5 billion in contributions to Jewish and Israeli causes, and is saluting its partnerships with the key organizations that have helped them reach this milestone. Among them is the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), also known as the “Joint”, which has been working alongside The Fellowship for the past 20 years. The collaboration between the two organizations has been critical in supporting welfare efforts for approximately 80,000 Jewish seniors living across the former Soviet Union (FSU), including Holocaust survivors given care by JDC and the Claims Conference.
Established in 1914, JDC has been saving Jewish lives and building Jewish life across the globe for more than 100 years. This includes its work helping needy Jews across the FSU, with material assistance and building the Jewish community, via its extensive network of Jewish social service and community centres.
While The Fellowship support to the Joint has taken many forms over the years, the overall goal was to assist the Jewish community in the FSU with their basic needs, from food, to clothing, and heating assistance. To date, over $200 million of aid has been provided by The Fellowship to support the Joint’s projects in these regions. Cooperation between The Fellowship and the Joint amplifies during times of particular crisis, such as during war or throughout the pandemic. The two organizations work hand in hand to identify specific areas of need and respond with their teams in the field to distribute the appropriate aid.
As the conflict in Ukraine has raged for over a year now, support efforts have increased, with global Fellowship funding exceeding $11 million to the JDC in 2022 alone. The funds were allocated to provide food, medicine, and other emergency supplies in locally affected communities and assist individuals and families in evacuating their homes and securing safe housing either in other parts of the country or after they had crossed the border. In advance of Passover 2023, The Fellowship plans to distribute over a ton of holiday foods for Jewish refugees.
Last week, the two organizations came together to commemorate their ongoing partnership and to mark the fourth anniversary of the passing of Fellowship founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. Attending the ceremony were Yael Eckstein, President of IFCJ Canada, Robin Van Etten, Global CEO of The Fellowship, Bishop Paul Lanier, Chairman of the US Board of The Fellowship, Ariel Zwang, CEO of JDC, Stefan Oscar, Executive Director for JDC Operations in the FSU, and others.
Also in attendance was Svetlana Lechtman, who was among the Ukrainian refugees able to flee Ukraine with JDC’s aid and then make aliyah to Israel with The Fellowship’s support. She emotionally expressed her gratitude to the two organizations for the decades of support, financially, medically, and emotionally, she and her family received growing up in Odesa. Reflecting on the last tumultuous year, she said, “Every day, I check the news to see what is happening in Odesa and Ukraine - it breaks my heart to see my countrymen suffer under such unbearable conditions.”
“I think, ‘There but for the grace of God — and of The Fellowship’. Without the help of JDC and The Fellowship, I honestly do not know how my family would have survived this war. Since we moved here, my father’s condition has worsened, and he has been hospitalized ten times. If we were still in Ukraine, there is no way he would still be with us. I long for the day when this is all over, and we can reunite with my husband. But until then, and from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for keeping us alive and giving us a chance to build a new life in Israel.”
IFCJ Canada President Yael Eckstein added, “The legacy of collaboration that has been created between these two organizations is a source of immeasurable pride for me, as the tens of thousands of people we are able to help together is the ultimate reflection of my father’s lifelong work. Every day, we are blessed to be able to change the lives of people like Svetlana for the better. We are deeply indebted to our partners at JDC as well as our hundreds of thousands of supporters all over the world who make this all possible.”
“We know well that to save one life is to save an entire world, and there is no doubt that the work we do in Ukraine and throughout the former Soviet Union has been a true lifeline to Jews and Jewish communities at times of crisis and celebration. We are grateful to IFCJ and its supporters for their decades of stalwart partnership and generosity, ensuring we make good on our responsibility to our fellow Jews to be a beacon of hope, comfort, and encouragement,” said Ariel Zwang, JDC CEO.
Celebrating its 40th year, The Fellowship continues to be a central figure in relief efforts for Jews worldwide in crisis and year-round. For 30 years, The Fellowship has assisted in the welfare of the Jewish communities in the FSU through funding distributed to organizations operating on the ground, including JDC and Chabad, with $30 million allocated during the last year towards emergency support of the Jewish community in Ukraine and surrounding areas.
In addition, The Fellowship has been operating independently in the field of aliyah (immigration to Israel) since 2014 and has helped more than 41,000 immigrants from 30 countries arrive in Israel.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews of Canada (IFCJ Canada) was founded in 2003 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews and to build broad support for Israel. Today it is one of the largest providers of not-for-profit humanitarian aid in Israel and is a leading force helping Jews in need worldwide. IFCJ Canada is a separately registered charity governed by an independent board of directors and led by President Yael Eckstein. Founded in 2003 by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, IFCJ Canada operates alongside a network of Fellowship offices worldwide, including in the United States, Israel, and Korea. The Global Fellowship will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year, continuing a mission to bless Israel and the Jewish people — like our world has never seen. For more information, visit www.ifcj.ca.