Yoni Leifer

Ukraine Representative
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

In 2013, Yoni was appointed as The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's (JDC) representative in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, following six years of dedicated service to the Belarus Jewish community. Born in a community served by JDC, and currently working on JDC's behalf, Yoni credits the organization for the many opportunities it has given him: to experience the realities of a distressed Jewish community firsthand, to consolidate his own Jewish identity, and to grow professionally and personally. Yoni first became conscious of his Jewish identity in 1988 when, as a youngster in Minsk, Belarus, he attended synagogue for the first time on Purim. A year later, with JDC's help, Yoni's was the first Bar Mitzvah celebrated in Belarus in several generations.

Today, Yoni still has the gifts he received that day – a tallit and a Hebrew dictionary. Yoni made aliyah with his family shortly afterwards, finishing high school in Jerusalem. He served in the Israel Defense Forces, rising to the rank of sergeant. Yoni went on to earn a B.A. in Social Work from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare, as well as an M.A. in nonprofit management. Today, as JDC's representative in eastern Ukraine, Yoni is responsible for the strategic planning and management of JDC’s operations in the region. Yoni brings his professional training to bear in this position, where he manages the numerous welfare services that together form a safety net for the many needy people in the FSU. Yoni also oversees a variety of formal and informal educational programs that nurture the renewal of Jewish life in the region and empower the future generation of young leaders to take over the helm. Since the outbreak of the emergency in Ukraine, Yoni's skills and expertise have been called on constantly to propel JDC's efforts to help Jews in crisis. He and his team have worked day and night to make emergency operations possible, ensuring that all Jews in need are helped.Yoni lives in Dnepropetrovsk with his wife and daughter.


In the Best of Times; In the Toughest of Times: Case Study on Community Building Overseas