Return on investment: Jewish Family Service in Budapest

by | Feb 8, 2013 | Other News

This year, Tidewater is helping provide more than 1,066 Hungarian children from 586 families with comprehensive social services. Since 2007, through the generosity and vision of Tidewater’s Jaffe family and the continued support of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Jewish community of Hungary has benefited from the humanitarian services of the Jaffe Jewish Family Service.

The first of its kind in Eastern Europe, the JJFS has transformed the delivery of humanitarian services in the Hungarian Jewish community.

“The model for the Jaffe Jewish Family Service is based on our JFS model here,” says Karen Jaffe, whose family was instrumental in the creation of the agency in Budapest. “We emphasize the community working together, we look at providing holistic solutions to problems, and we’re creating a kind of nexus, to find a way people can connect and relate and network with others in their community.”

From services like Jewish holiday programming, summer day camp, providing prescription eyeglasses, job training, and even a new concept for that community— well-baby groups—Hungarian Jewish families now have a place to turn.

Families like Agnes and her son, Gregory. Agnes brought Gregory with her when she returned from Israel to her native Budapest after a painful divorce in 2008. Agnes arrived in Budapest at the start of the economic crisis with no job, no income, and emotionally reeling from her divorce.

Through the JJFS, Gregory ate hot lunches daily at his Jewish day school. He was able to see the dentist his mother couldn’t afford. He received special tutoring to help him transition into the Hungarian school. He thrived at Jaffe summer day camp and the Szarvas camp, which he attended thanks to a scholarship.

At the same time, the JJFS helped Agnes through her personal crisis, in part by facilitating an empowerment group for mothers, and helped her prepare to earn a living in a job readiness training program. Agnes now works full time as an administrator, and Gregory has blossomed into a successful high-school student.

“I could never have gotten through the difficult times and solved my problems without help from the JFS,” Agnes says about her new life.

Year after year since it opened, the JJFS significantly increases the number of Jewish children and families it assists. Karen and her brother Nathan Jaffe remain actively involved with the JJFS, following the lessons taught by to them by their parents, Bernard and Lee (both of blessed memory) about the importance of Jewish people helping and taking care of one another.

“There are so few of us (Jews) in the world, that if we don’t care what happens to one another—and we are all family…then nobody cares. Period. Nobody,” Jaffe says.

While the JJFS was made possible by the generosity of the Jaffe family, the investment of the greater Tidewater Jewish community, through an allocation of the UJFT Annual Campaign each year, allows the JJFS to continue its essential work in Budapest.

“I hope that people don’t think that they can’t make a difference if they’re unable to make a gift like the Jaffes made in Hungary,” says Alvin Wall, UJFT president. “Part of the beauty of the UJFT is that it allows us to pool our resources. We have a real and lasting impact when we work together. The Jaffe family did an amazing thing when they helped set up the JJFS in Budapest. I’m very proud of them and our whole community—every year, our donors, through the annual campaign, help improve lives through that amazing program.”

This summer the UJFT will lead a mission to the Jewish communities of Budapest (Hungary) and Prague (Czech Republic). Mission dates are Sunday, July 14 through Monday, July 22. Space is limited to 45 participants. Call Amy Zelenka at 757-965-6139 to receive additional information.