2020 Report: Connecting Jews Worldwide | The Jewish Agency

We keep the Jewish people strong by ensuring every Jewish person feels an unbreakable bond to one another and to Israel.

Many of our programs that work toward this goal operate in-person to foster these relationships. But with COVID-19 restricting normal contact with others, and creating new needs and challenges among Jewish communities worldwide, we had to get creative, and fast! We found innovative ways to ensure the pandemic did not stop our global Jewish family from being there for each other.

  • In April 2020, The Jewish Agency, with our partners The Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod, launched the COVID-19 Loan Fund for Communities in Crisis to help Jewish institutions in peril bridge immediate gaps in cash flow.

  • To bring Israel to life and help World Jewry build personal relationships with Israelis and Israel, The Jewish Agency sends Shlichim (Israeli emissaries) to serve in global Jewish communities each year. When COVID hit, they had to adapt fast to hosting virtual activities.

  • Masa Israel Journey actually saw an increase in demand in 2020 as it was the only program whose participants were allowed to enter Israel when it was on lockdown. Despite COVID, thousands of young Jews traveled to Israel through Masa to learn, volunteer and intern.

  • To help communities dealing with new challenges due to COVID, in November 2020, The Jewish Agency launched JReady, a worldwide Jewish Emergency Network that quickly established itself as a highly effective operational model for crisis response and communal resilience.


Betsy Gidwitz
Chicago, Illinois

Betsy has long been an activist in the movement to free Soviet Jews, but it was only after the Soviet Union collapsed that she became actively involved in The Jewish Agency, discovering it was more than just the primary organization facilitating and encouraging Aliyah.

“The Jewish Agency led the way in reconnecting Jews in the former Soviet Union with their heritage, the Jewish People, and Israel after the fall of the Iron Curtain. By supporting The Jewish Agency’s programs, I have been able to personally make an impact on the lives of Russian-speaking Jews,” shared Dr. Gidwitz.

Those programs are still near and dear to Dr. Gidwitz, who is a strong supporter of educational initiatives in Chicago and elsewhere, especially those prioritizing Jewish learning and bringing Jewish communities together.

“I believe that connections between Israeli Jews and World Jewry are essential to a bright Jewish future,” Dr. Gidwitz stated. “The Jewish Agency is the vital organization in building and maintaining these links among Jews everywhere, and I’m proud to be a supporter.”

Dr. Gidwitz has been a member of The Jewish Agency Board of Governors since 2000 and chairs The Jewish Agency’s Geographies & Regions Committee. She has been a Jewish Agency Donor for over a decade, especially supporting activities in the former Soviet Union.

Photo courtesy of Betsy
Photo courtesy of Betsy


Joshua Biggs
Sydney, Australia

Born and raised in Sydney, Joshua was brought up in a Zionist family, infused with a love of Israel. This dedication to Israel led him to become actively involved in Keren Hayesod, one of The Jewish Agency’s strategic fundraising partners.

“Keren Hayseod and The Jewish Agency have worked together since before the State of Israel was even established, with Keren Hayesod raising key funds for The Jewish Agency around the world,” said Joshua. “And through this partnership, the impact these organizations have on Jews worldwide is incredible.”

As the former Chairman of the Young Leadership Division of Keren Hayesod New South Wales–Sydney, Joshua is passionate about helping build lasting bonds among young Jews in Sydney and Israel, which are critical to a strong Jewish future.

“I was taught that world Jewry has a responsibility to support Israel any way we can, but that doesn’t happen without powerful ties in place,” Joshua shared. “And The Jewish Agency is at the forefront, and always has been, in connecting Jews outside of Israel to the Jewish State. Those efforts are crucial, and I’m proud to be involved.”

Joshua has been a member of The Jewish Agency’s Aliyah and Connecting Jewish People Committees since November 2020. He’s also an Executive Member of Keren Hayesod in Sydney and has been involved with Keren Hayesod Australia since 2009.

Photo courtesy of Joshua
Photo courtesy of Joshua