Grantee Highlight: Project Kesher
Empowering Women to Elevate the Jewish Community
For over 30 years, Project Kesher has empowered women leaders with a mission to build up the Jewish community and advance civil society. Since 1989, the organization has supported the Russian-speaking Jewish diaspora in Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine in collaboration with women who are provided the resources to become agents of change in their communities. Project Kesher received six grants from the Sephardic Foundation on Aging (SFOA) — totaling $172,000 — to help Jewish older adults fight social isolation, combat elder abuse and address dementia.
Building the Bridge from Isolation to Assimilation for Elderly Immigrants
In 2017 and 2019, SFOA provided two grants worth $36,000 each to Project Kesher. The organization used the donations for their program geared toward peer-to-peer support for senior and elderly Russian-speaking immigrants in Israel. The 2017 grant helped expand this existing program, while the 2019 contribution allowed Project Kesher to continue running it.
Thanks to this aid, the organization was not only able to reach the older and more isolated populations, but also boosted the quality of the program for elderly women who were an underserved population. The funding also went to support staff and hire coordinators to address individual-specific beneficiary needs ranging from social isolation to elder abuse. The project’s continuation expanded services to include financial, medical and cultural workshops for immigrants to Israel.
Responding to Pandemic Isolation with Human-centered Aid
Despite Project Kesher’s many grassroots efforts, the pandemic further isolated elderly populations. Thanks to SFOA’s $20,000 COVID relief aid in 2020, the organization was able to operate a food delivery program during the lockdown. Young leaders made grocery deliveries to both help the more impoverished beneficiaries and abate isolation by providing safe interactions. To that end, Project Kesher also deployed the funds to connect the elderly to the internet. Community customer support was made available to help seniors get on Zoom and make sure they did not feel lonely.
Equipping Caretakers with the Knowledge to Support Seniors
Because of the challenges to the at-home caretaker model when it comes to seniors with dementia, the $25,000 grant received from SFOA in 2021 — to help sustain and educate caretakers in the Jewish community — was critical. Mainly, obstacles that caretakers often contend with is a lack of support and information that results in elderly family members being either underdiagnosed or untreated.
With the boost from the grant, Project Kesher worked virtually to recruit experienced partners in dementia. This joint-project created content and curricula for caretakers of elders with dementia or signs of onsetting dementia. The organization also activated its grassroots reach to gather experts on webinars as well as distribute educational materials in print for the community. Both media reached tens of thousands of beneficiaries and over 140 participants registered for these seminars from Belarus, Estonia, Israel, Latvia, Russia and Ukraine.
Providing Short and Long Term Support to Displaced Ukrainians
In 2022, SFOA provided two grants to Project Kesher as Russia invaded Ukraine. The first grant of $25,000 was emergency funding to aid those displaced by the war. The humanitarian crisis saw hundreds of thousands fleeing and in need of food, shelter, medicine and security. Thanks to the 300 trained leaders Project Kesher had throughout the country, they organized to provide low-cost and high-impact solutions. The grant helped bring emergency equipment to home-bound elders, organize over 8,000 individual evacuations from the war zone, and expand staff to handle the refugee intake.
The second grant of $30,000 focused on responding to social isolation. Project Kesher used the SFOA contribution to add social workers and mental health professionals to support refugee groups. They worked to facilitate access to mental health support, government benefits, legal consultations and medical institutions. A special mental health coordinator as well as staff with expertise in gerontology and linguistics were also hired to track stories of elder abuse.
SFOA’s Grants Were “Instrumental in Scaling Low-cost Grassroots Infrastructure”
Institutional support from foundations like SFOA is key for organizations like Project Kesher, because funding dips disproportionately impact elderly populations that are most vulnerable and most difficult to take care of. “We are appreciative of the dedication of SFOA for their funding,” said Project Kesher Development Director Shira Pruce. Especially as the war in Ukraine broke, SFOA’s grants were “instrumental in scaling low-cost grassroots infrastructure at a time when money was hard to get into the country.”