Hesed Community Welfare Model

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Hesed Community Welfare Model
TypeNonprofit organization
  • Post-Soviet states

Hesed a network of Community Welfare Centers—established in 1993 in the Post-Soviet states [AKA: FSU] by the AJJDC in cooperation with local Jewish communities. The network was established after Perestroika in response to the social disorder that followed the breakdown of the Soviet Union and the collapse of its social and health services. Hesed served as AJJDC’s vehicle in the FSU to pursue its missions of supporting Jewish communities in distress and fostering Jewish renewal.

The Hesed Model

The Hesed model was conceived and brought to fruition to seize the ideological, and socio-economic political crisis that characterized the FSU in the early 1990s, as an opportunity to foster Jewish communal revival. The first center, Hesed Avraham, was established in 1993 in St. Petersburg. Since its inception, the network addressed the special welfare, economic and cultural needs of the Jewish population in the FSU. Also, it aimed to foster Jewish identity, and revive Jewish community life. The Hesed movement reached its peak in 2000 when it provided services to over 250,000 Jews and Righteous Gentiles through 178 Hesed centers (AKA: Hasadim) in eleven time zones across all former Soviet Union republics. Hesed’s operational work was based on three principles: community orientation, Jewish traditions (Yiddishkeit), and mobilization of volunteers. Hasadim were designed to promote and re-introduce Yiddishkeit (i.e. Jewish ways of life, Jewish heritage, and culture). To this end they provided a variety of services and commodities connected to Jewish calendar and traditions. In all its locations, Hasadim forged and maintained close relationships with most existing Jewish community bodies as well as with non-Jewish welfare agencies. The network’s community orientation was manifested in its governance structure of a board of directors with wide community representation. Hasadim promoted and relied heavily on the activity of volunteers, many of which were Hesed’s clients. In the early 2000s, over 15,000 Hesed volunteers were mobilized across the FSU.

Hesed Services

Hasadim offer a variety of both in-house and outreach services including welfare, material, health, social, psychological and cultural services to Jewish clients, primarily but not exclusively to the aged, regardless of their social or organizational affiliation.[1] Since their inception, self-sufficiency has been a major challenge for the development of Hasadim.[2] While local fundraising has been problematic, the Hasadim were able to generate local income. External funding came from Jewish and non-Jewish organizations including AJJDC, the Claims Conference, and the German Government. Further support was provided by a variety of public authorities and funds (e.g. the President's Foundation, the Swiss Banks Settlement, Russian Jewish Congress, and Timchenko and Potanin foundations), as well as private funds and contributions, such as the Rochlin Foundation grants.


  1. Elizabeth Tighe et. al. (eds.), Hardship and Needs of Elderly Hesed Clients: An Analysis of Clients Served by Hesed Service Centers in Russia & Ukraine (Brandeis University, Maurice and Marylyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies), 2012; Howard A. Palley & Lyudmyla A. Romanenkova, “Long-Term Care Policy for the Elderly in the Zaporozhye Region of Ukraine”, Journal of Aging & Social Policy (Vol. 16, No. 3), 2004, pp. 71-91.
  2. Mark I. Rosen Mission, Meaning and Money: How the Joint Distribution Committee Became a Fundraising Innovator (Brandeis University, 2010), p. 28

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