I’m sitting in my apartment in the epicenter of the coronavirus in Midtown NYC and while I’m thankful to wake up every day in good health and with food to eat, I’m waking up with a heavy heart that is breaking for neglected Jewish children and elderly who are 5,000 miles away. I haven’t forgotten about them but with everyone in their own silo’s focused on survival, what about the survival of our Jewish brothers and sisters in vulnerable populations around the world?
I’m humbled to serve as the voice of nearly 1,000 children who can not speak for themselves, the children of TiKVA in Odessa, Ukraine. We are a rescue aid and educational Jewish organization, at this dire time focused on feeding children and the elderly, as well as, helping the community. We are one of many organizations suffering, as is the rest of the world, while also wondering what will happen when the food, medical, and emergency supplies run out and we have no one else to turn to for help.
I want to tell you about my friend Nathaniel. Today he turns 6 years old. He was discovered near a dumpster by a street market in Odessa when he was just 2 months old. A woman who knew his mother contacted TiKVA in a cry for help saying that this child’s mother is a drunk and can no longer care for him. She was too embarrassed to go to TiKVA herself. The father was never in a picture. Despite, the circumstances he was born into, with TIKVA’s help Nathaniel is now a happy little boy who receives personal special needs care, is learning, and loves to play games, especially outdoors with his TiKVA brothers and sisters. Loss of jobs and rise in domestic violence also means that more children are now joining TiKVA homes and need our help…
I count my blessings every day that I am American. In America I won’t starve to death, or be left on the street, and should I lose my job I will not be without support. In America anyone who has been affected by the pandemic has access to unemployment support, among other supports – there is much to be grateful for. Unfortunately, most third world and developing countries are not as fortunate as those of us who are here in America and will be indirectly affected in numerous ways by COVID-19. One of those countries is the Ukraine.
America is one of the most philanthropic nations in the world. Now, with the US economy suffering it will indirectly impact many organizations that are responsible for feeding, sheltering, and caring for thousands of vulnerable Jews all over the globe. It will hurt us. It will hurt OUR Jewish children and elderly in Ukraine.
TiKVA’s core mission is to care for at-risk, homeless, and abused Jewish children in Odessa and 45 other cities in the surrounding regions of the former Soviet Union. Beyond 5 children’s homes that care for 300 infants to young adults, programs include food and medical care, special needs services, community programs including feeding programs for the elderly, and 6 Jewish educational facilities that span nursery through university for over 950 students. All of these are geared to saving lives, promoting Jewish identity, and breaking the cycle of poverty in this vulnerable population. TiKVA’s success is marked by hundreds of graduates who made Aliyah, many of which are serving in the IDF, over 600 Jewish marriages, and over 800 children born to parents who are beneficiaries of Tikva’s life-saving and educational work. Over the last 20 years, TiKVA was able to revitalize Jewish life and bring HOPE to the forgotten Jewish community of Odessa, Ukraine and beyond.
We are an organization serving the vulnerable Jewish population in a forgotten part of the world where resources and financial support needed to respond to such a crisis are limited. WE NEED YOUR HELP! We don’t have the luxury of a country like America, with neighbors who have the capacity to get us through this difficult time. We are not your local Shul, or a Yeshiva, we are not your neighborhood hospital, nor are we Israel. We are not just an organization helping orphans, we are a forgotten orphan organization. We depend on Americans like you, who take pride in helping the less fortunate in desperate times of need.
It is in your power to help us. It is in your hands to make sure the forgotten are not forgotten. It is so hard for us to sit at home and feel helpless, but we can help! Maybe you know a foundation or a philanthropist looking to help Jewish children or the elderly? Or maybe you want to do your own mitzvah and give what you can to help TiKVA survive this critical time. Visit our website to help us make an impact and literally save lives:
Yanna Begelman is the Director of Development for the TiKVA Children’s Home in Odessa, Ukraine. She was born in 1985 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, descendant of Ukrainian grandparents who escaped the Nazis. Yanna feels that although her grandparents were lucky to leave, many others were not as fortunate. Yanna’s mission is to shed light and rally support for the forgotten children and elderly who were left behind and to help them live a life of dignity and HOPE. Contact Yanna at: YannaB@TikvaOdessa.org