Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Jewish group feeds needy

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee formed in 1914 to help feed starving Jews in Turkey. The thought was that the organization would disband in two or three years after responding to the crisis.

Eighty-nine years later, the JDC is still hard at work feeding more than 300,000 hungry people every year at a cost of about $80 million. And there appears to be no end in sight - either for the JDC or the needy it serves.

Eugene Ribakoff and Steven Schwager, president and chief executive officer of the JDC, respectively, were in Cincinnati on Monday discussing the organization's work with members of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, one of 195 such federations around the country that provide much of the JDC's funding.

There are three areas the JDC is focusing much of its resources on, though it faces a $19.7 million shortfall:

• Argentina, which has suffered a financial collapse. The JDC provides food, medical and housing assistance to more than 34,000 impoverished Jews, distributes an average of 15,000 medical prescriptions each month and ensures proper nutrition for 2,000 children through a school lunch program.

• The former Soviet Union, where a quarter-million destitute, elderly Jews depend on the organization. About 23,000 Jews receive 3.5 million hot meals annually.

• Israel, where the JDC has a "Keep the Children Safe" initiative that sends 260,000 children to summer camps, creates after-school programs for 42,000 children in areas most vulnerable to suicide bombers, and provides hot meals for 27,000 children living in poverty.

E-mail dklepal@enquirer.com

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