The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is perhaps best known for its international charitable work, bringing volunteers, supplies and services to foreign countries where Jews live, no matter how small the population may be in those parts. Their JDC Short-Term Service programs focus not on only those in need but on engaging the younger set – North American college students and young professionals — by sponsoring service trips all over the globe. They have sent missions to Morocco, Cuba and Haiti, just to name a few. But now, after all of this service work abroad, they’re finally coming to a (New York) City near you. At least their pictures are.
From now until January 26th, the Bronfman Center at NYU is hosting a photo exhibit called “Caution: Children at Play.” The pictures were culled from a short-term service trip to Tel Aviv’s Hatikvah neighborhood, which was run in conjunction with JDC’s Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI). In June, 19 student volunteers from NYU, the New School, FIT and SVA traveled to Israel to work with children of parents who are refugees, asylum-seekers, and foreign workers from Sudan, Eritrea, Ghana, the Philippines, and other countries. Though in the late 90s, there were just 100 asylum seekers in Israel, that number has increased many times over and at present, they are over 22,000 such individuals.
While in Israel, the JDC participants worked at “Babysitter” sites, painting murals, cleaning up play spaces and providing other forms of recreation, such as dance classes. All of their efforts were geared towards making the children, whose entire lives have been marked by profound insecurity and vulnerability, feel safer and less anxious. Or, to put it more simply, to let them just be kids. And while they were working, the students posted to JDC’s blog where they went into considerable depth about the refugee issue in Israel. These entries can be read here.
The NYU students have also started a campaign to collect money on behalf of the children they worked with while abroad. They’ve named their efforts after the municipality in which the kids live – Children of Hatikvah. As many of you may know, Hatikvah, is also the name of the Israeli national anthem and is the Hebrew word for “hope.” This is precisely what the students, the JDC and CIMI wish to give these refugees and their children – hope for a better future. You can donate here. And you can find more information about seeing the exhibit for yourself by visiting the Bronfman Center’s website.