The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)
Zoya Shvartzman knows the difference a Jewish community can make. Growing up in the former Soviet Union, Zoya’s family was forbidden to practice Judaism under the communist government. Yet she always felt a connection to her Jewish roots—partly because her family spoke a “strange” language (Yiddish), and also because her mother pushed her to excel, which was in direct opposition to the collective nature of communism.
When Zoya and her mother immigrated to Vancouver, she got her first taste of Jewish community—a community that provided them with friends, scholarships to JCC summer camps, financial support and vital connection to their Jewish heritage. It was here that Zoya realized the power of a Jewish community that helped newcomers for no reason other than that they were Jews and needed help. “The Jewish community helped us with food, but they didn’t only fill our stomachs. They also filled our souls,” she says.
Now, as director of strategic partnerships for our trusted overseas partner, the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Zoya is in a position to help many more Jews in need. She works to build vibrant communal life in countries where Jews were nearly wiped out by the Holocaust and then communism. By establishing communal places like alternative Jewish cafés in Budapest and Jewish youth clubs in Warsaw, Zoya helps young Jews connect with their heritage in these re-emerging European Jewish communities. She also runs JDC’s “Bereshit” program—an intensive community course in Jewish Studies.
Zoya’s life and experiences have nurtured her belief that all Jews are responsible for one another. “Judaism is a lot more than religion. It’s a people, a tribe—and we take care of each other.”
Come hear Zoya’s compelling story and insights into how to help our global Jewish community thrive. Buy your FEDtalks tickets today!