American Jewry’s premier international aid agency has launched a UK initiative to promote humanitarian work and global Jewish solidarity among young professionals.
JDC, the Joint Distribution Committee, is offering places on trips run by its young adult arm, Entwine, to learn about its overseas projects.
A group of British Jews went with Entwine to Ethiopia last autumn, five have just returned from Haiti, and after Pesach seven more will fly to Shanghai for China’s second Limmud.
“There are eight Entwine networks in North America and this is the first outside,” said Nikki Levitan, 30, who started on the London desk last month.
Participants on trips form networks on their return, arranging events to talk about their experiences to contemporaries. “They are in the best position to bring their peers through the door to hear about these issues,” said Sarah Eisenman, the founder and global director of Entwine.
“If we want young adults to care about Jewish communities, care about the world and take action, you have first to invest in educating them.”
JDC operates in 70 countries, aiding both Jewish and non-Jewish communities. In Ethiopia, its projects range from medical services to digging wells; in Cuba, it runs the only Jewish Sunday school; it brought emergency relief to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and now sponsors three schools and vocational training on the Caribbean island.
While Entwine offers volunteering placements of up to a year, it is starting with its shorter, seven to 10-day trips for UK recruits. But Ms Eisenman is hopeful that its full range of opportunities will become available here.
Those who took part in the Haiti trip did some work in one of the JDC-supported schools, while those heading for China Limmud will lead sessions there. Entwine’s UK programme is supported by the Pears Foundation, JHub and World Jewish Relief.
Ms Levitan, who is head of social justice at North Western Reform Synagogue and a resident of the London Moishe House, said: “The first Entwine public event here will be on April 30, which will be about JDC’s work in Ethiopia.
“After Pesach, we will be recruiting for summer trips to Argentina and Cuba.”