Hesed Evaluation Study: Jewish Identity,Community Orientation and Voluntarism – Report Number 2: Findings from a Survey of Hesed Clients

This report is the second in a series that presents findings from an evaluation study of Hesed Community Welfare Centers in the former Soviet Union (FSU). The study was initiated by the JDC-FSU Department and conducted by the JDC-Brookdale Institute in cooperation with the William Rosenwald Institute for Communal and Welfare Workers in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Hesed model, a multi-faceted service network, was designed by the AJJDC at the end of the Communist era to respond to the needs of an aging Jewish population with severe economic and health problems. It embodies three guiding principles: Jewish values, community orientation and voluntarism. Today, approximately 170 Hesed Centers serve over 250,000 clients throughout the FSU.

The goal of the study was to evaluate whether the guiding principles remain integral to service provision. The study was conducted at eight “Hesed” Centers in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus and examined the perspectives of the directors, employees, volunteers, home-care workers and clients, and local community representatives.

This report examines perceptions of “Hesed” clients regarding their utilization of “Hesed” services, their unmet needs, “Hesed’s” impact on their Jewish identity and the role of voluntarism at “Hesed”. A total of 2,400 clients were randomly sampled, out of the total client population in these eight cities and 1,867 responded. Selected findings:

  • The majority of the clients (59%) were “Hesed” clients for three years or more. Most (92%) cited receiving food packages from “Hesed”. Relatively high percentages (26% to 40%) reported receiving medical consultation, material assistance, social visits and/or telephone calls from volunteers and participating in cultural activities. Eight percent reported receiving home care. A considerable percentage reported a need for more help,particularly rel home repairs and medical care.
  • The reports of the clients indicated that “Hesed” was significant in reinforcing their sense of Jewishness. This is reflected in their self-identity and attitudes, sense of belonging to the Jewish people, knowledge about Judaism, observance of Jewish practices, and relationship with the Jewish community.
  • More than half of the clients cited that “Hesed” plays a major role in Jewish life in their city. Yet, a very high percentage (92%) said that “Hesed” should broaden its activities for other needy segments of the Jewish population, primarily children and single-parent families.
  • The clients reports about the volunteers indicate the significant role played by the volunteers at “Hesed”. Forty percent of the clients reported contact with “Hesed” volunteers, which involved some kind of formal assistance. The majority (63%) said that they consider their contact with the volunteers important/very important and a very high percentage (93%) reported satisfaction with the work of the volunteers. Eleven percent also cited the need to improve the quality of the volunteer staff and the care they provide. Two percent of the clients reported that they themselves currently volunteer at “Hesed” and 11% would like to volunteer at “Hesed”. The major reason for not wanting to volunteer was health limitations (68%).

The study was funded by the JDC-FSU Department and has already been utilized in the ongoing development of Hesed network.