Last year at this time, Adam, Jeanine, Aliza and Max enjoyed the comforts of American life. Today, you’ll find these young Jewish professionals and 21 of their peers living all around the world, in cities and villages from Mumbai, India to Kharkov, Ukraine to Duis, Germany.
They have made a yearlong commitment to make a difference overseas in a unique program offered by Entwine, the young adult engagement initiative of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, better known as JDC or “the Joint.”
The JDC is the largest Jewish humanitarian organization in the world. It works in 70 countries, specializing in humanitarian aid, Jewish community renewal and disaster relief.
The mission of the four-year-old Entwine is to offer a one-of-a-kind movement for young Jewish leaders and advocates who want to make a meaningful impact on global Jewish needs and international humanitarian issues.
The particular Entwine program that Adam and the others are involved in is the JDC’s Jewish Service Corps; its paid participants— recent college graduates and young professionals—are called JSC fellows. The JSC is one of three divisions of Entwine, which also offers educational opportunities, additional global service work and leadership training.
“We have 25 fellows in the JSC this year who are placed around the world,” says Naomi Sage, senior program director for Entwine. “Some of them are in Diaspora Jewish communities, some of them are in Israel, and some of them are connected to our nonsectarian development and disaster relief work overseas.”
One of the JSC fellows hails from Tidewater. Max Sandler, who was featured in a recent issue of Jewish News, has a placement in Gondar, Ethiopia, where he is working in the field of education, teaching English in a high school.
“Max has tons of energy and a big smile…and the right attitude, and that goes a long way,” Sage says. “Your community should feel really proud that one of its young people is making this kind of commitment to take a year of his life and live in very difficult conditions, and give to this very important work of addressing global and humanitarian challenges. It takes really a special person to make that kind of commitment.”
Before going to Ethiopia, Sandler was involved in Entwine in Washington, D.C., close to where he worked and lived after graduating from college. Washington is one of seven cities throughout the United States where Entwine has established Learning Networks, and Sandler helped plan programs and events for the organization.
“What we’re hoping comes out of this is a greater awareness of global Jewish issues and a greater commitment in the sense of responsibility to care for these issues,” says Sage.
“We see some of the JSC fellows who are inspired by their year of service to go into work in the Jewish community, or to go into work connected to global issues. Others don’t pursue that field of work, but what we do see is that they come out with a real, lasting commitment to these issues and an understanding of them that is different than their peers—and that is what we’re looking for.”
The JDC and its programs and initiatives, such as Entwine, are able to operate in part due to gifts made to the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Annual Campaign. The JDC is a recipient of Israel and Overseas allocations.
“Without the support of your community, we can’t do the work that we do,” Sage says.
“Whether its working with Jewish communities around the world and ensuring that they can build a vibrant Jewish life, whether its making sure that welfare needs are being met in Jewish communities around the world, whether it’s making sure that social needs are being met in Israel, or whether its making sure that the Jewish community is providing a Jewish response to general humanitarian needs, we can’t do any of that without the support of communities like Tidewater. You make a huge difference.”
To find out more about the ways that gifts to the UJFT’s Annual Campaign makes a real difference to real people, visit www.jewishva. org. To find out more about Entwine, its programs and the JDC, visit www.jdcentwine.org. To get an idea of Max Sandler’s life in Gondar, read his blog: www.tibsfordinner.blogspot.com.
by Laine M. Rutherford