According to Judaism it is our own responsibility to care for the needy members of our family, community, town, country and people in general. These principles shape the mission of the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria Shalom in the field of charity, mutual aid, assisting disadvantaged persons, families and groups of people both within the Jewish community and outside of it.
A huge part of the social welfare activities of the Jewish organization is directed towards the elderly, the majority of whom are Holocaust survivors. Through means supplied by international Jewish funds, which provide for this particular age group worldwide, Claims Conference in particular, Bulgarian Jewish community has the opportunity to secure comfort to its senior members. For them the Organization has arranged soup kitchens throughout the country, meals on wheels for those who cannot leave their homes, medical assistance, free medications and psychological support to help overcome the trauma caused by the events during the Holocaust. Apart from this assistance, it is extremely important for the community to safeguard and maintain a worthy life and inclusivity of their members. This is why Shalom started the Hai (‘life’ in Hebrew) Daily Center and many other clubs where senior members can join singing groups, dance classes, discussion groups, do sports, practice their Hebrew and Ladino knowledge, learn about Jewish traditions and customs, meet celebrities, go to daytrips or sleepover camps, and feel good about themselves and what they do. The Organization maintains an old age home – “Parent’s home” where the residents enjoy professional care, adequate medical assistance, kosher food prepared according to the Jewish law, wide variety of activities as well as regular visits by young community volunteers.
Another large sector of social benefits, which the Organization improves constantly, is directed towards members with health issues of all ages. At the in-house Mazal clinic, Shalom regularly organizes different prophylactic examinations, vaccinations, general doctor consultations and therapy sessions.
Unfortunately, due to the dire economic situation in Bulgaria, it is not uncommon to receive applications for financial support of children, young adults, entire families and people in their prime who found themselves financially challenged, lost temporary or permanently their working capacity, etc. In such cases the specialists at Shalom’s Welfare Center do anything possible to provide aid and at the same time engage as much as possible other community members with helping the disadvantaged.
A very important place in this sphere have the Alef scholarships which are awarded to university students from the community in exchange for contributing to some of the Organization’s programs or Ariel Center for Professional Development. The Center organizes further education courses, language tutorials and computer literacy classes, all of which help our members get better jobs.
Like it was already mentioned above, one of the greatest priorities for our community is to engage all our members personally with the social aspects of our activities and the care for the needy. Aside from teaching the principles of tzedakah, which is among the highest values of mutual support and charity, Shalom regularly coordinates visits of sick and elderly members during but not limited to the High Holidays, common seder feasts, etc. The charity bazars are another longtime tradition for the community, which collect donations for different causes and initiatives.
The social projects of the Jewish community are realized in partnership both with international Jewish organizations and departments for state social services in the larger cities. On the other hand, the Jewish organization often initiates projects, through which it can exchange know-how and good practices with other NGOs and social system structures.
It is implied in their religion that Jews should not direct their charity towards themselves but try to make the whole world a better place. Led by this principle, the Jewish community often makes donations to orphanages, old age homes, hospice institutions and children’s homes. Several donations containing medical equipment have been made out to medical centers and hospitals.
During times of crises and natural disasters, the community reacts immediately according to the most pressing needs. The flagship project to unite the different aspects of continuous help provided by the Jewish community is called Do Good. It is a unique platform which unites the efforts of social structures, municipalities, state institutions, but its real engine are the doctors from Alexandrovska University Hospital in Sofia. Through the years, they volunteered to examine thousands of young children and adults without access to quality medical assistance, due to the isolation of their hometown or lack of funds. The program for eyesight prophylactics encompasses thousands of children from orphanages and childcare homes, for many of whom this is the first ever eye examination. Thanks to Do Good many kids have been diagnosed early with amblyopia, which means a higher chance for their full recovery. The program not only provides diagnostics but, if necessary, covers the prescribed glasses or medical treatment. A certain height in the activities of the project was reached during the huge immigration wave to Bulgaria in 2014, when refugee-seekers flooded the reception centers in the country. The Do Good team visited all reception centers in Sofia, performed general physiological exams, pediatric exams and eye exams, and provided all necessary medications.