Aliyah in the Jewish tradition refers to when a Jewish person 'rises up' to Israel – immigrates to Israel. Since the founding of the modern State of Israel in 1948, millions of Jews from around the world have made aliyah, helping to build Israel into the strong and vibrant democracy that it is today.
More than 1 million of these Jews made their way to Israel from the former Soviet Union (FSU) over the past several decades, yet more than a million more remain in the FSU. For those who remain, many face enduring anti-Semitism and discrimination, trapping them in a life of poverty and hopelessness.
Most affected by these harsh conditions are often the most vulnerable – children and the elderly. Tragically, many thousands of abused, neglected and abandoned children struggle to survive on the streets or in state run institutions, where they will never receive the type of care they need to have a better life.
Impoverished elderly Jews, many of whom survived the Holocaust, live isolated and alone, often having insufficient funds to buy both the food they need to eat and the medicines they need to treat their medical conditions.
Yet Christians from around the world have joined together to do something about the humanitarian crisis facing these vulnerable Jews and have blessed them with their love and support.
Christians Care International (CCI), the only Christian charitable organisation that provides a full continuum of direct support services to impoverished Jews in the FSU, is on the front lines, working every day on the ground to improve conditions and rescue these people in need from dire poverty. Since its founding, CCI has helped more than 87,000 Jews make aliyah to Israel and provides urgent humanitarian aid to Jews living in the FSU.
CCI's many programs include its Kalaniot Children's Home in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine, which houses and cares for severely abused, neglected and abandoned Jewish children. The home provides these children with what they need most – a safe and loving environment where they can begin to heal and regain trust in others, and in themselves. The CCI Children's Home provides advanced 24-hour therapeutic care, healthy meals, a quality education and Jewish religious observances like the Sabbath and holidays.
Not far from the Children's Home, CCI operates its recently opened senior care services center, where poor, elderly Jews, many of whom are Holocaust survivors, receive daily meals, psychological care, medical screening, social interaction, brain stimulating activities, humanitarian support and the chance to connect with their Jewish heritage.
To help the healing process for both children and seniors in our care, CCI recently launched its "Healing Hearts" program, an innovative new mentoring program that pairs elderly from the CCI senior center with Jewish children from the CCI Children's Home.
CCI's Healing Hearts mentoring program brings together children and senior citizens to share in Shabbat services, art and music projects, meals and other enriching activities to promote improved mental, physical and psychological health.
The children benefit by feeling loved, learning responsibility and building positive adult relationships. All of the visits are closely overseen and coordinated by CCI's team of neuropsychologists and create healthy environments where both children and seniors can grow and develop positive outlooks.
Anna Markova, a Holocaust survivor, is a perfect example of how this mentoring program helps lift the physical and emotional well-being of Jews who have faced so many hardships in their lives.
A regular visitor to the CCI Senior Center, Anna was recently paired with 10 year-old Andre, who was severely abused and neglected by his alcoholic father. The two have been seeing each other twice a week for the last month. Anna was lonely and struggled to survive before entering the Senior Center. Now, she gets daily meals, medical attention and perhaps most importantly, has a new, enriching social life.
Her social worker asked Anna if she would become a mentor in the Healing Hearts program to a boy named Andre. Though nervous at first at the thought of taking responsibility for mentoring a young boy who had been terribly abused, Anna and Andre quickly become very close. Anna says that Andre has become the grandson she never had and the pair have become an important part of each other's lives.
Thanks to the loving support of Christians around the world, Christians Care International has saved the lives of thousands of Jewish people just like Anna and Andre, helping them rise up from life-threatening poverty to a future filled with hope.
Don Horwitz is executive director of Christians Care International. The grandson of Russian Jewish immigrants, Don believes that God brought him to serve as Executive Director of Christians Care International (CCI). Through his work with CCI, Don has developed a global network of Christians united in fulfilling God's call to lift up the Jewish people. On Twitter @CCareInt.