Yevgeniya Grinberg has endured enough hardship for many lifetimes. When she was a small child in Soviet Russia, her father was sent to the gulag. Just a few years later, she and her mother were forced to flee the Nazis. In the 1990s, she immigrated to the United States, and now, well into her 80s, she’s facing kidney cancer and an array of debilitating health issues. Despite barely having enough to get by herself, she regularly sends care packages to her older son in Moscow, who’s been incapacitated by a stroke.

We would never know Yevgeniya’s story if not for The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, which gives light and form to the stories of people who are too often relegated to the shadows. Since 1911, The New York Times has raised over $300 million from its readership in support of the Fund. UJA is one of the seven recipients of these dollars, which we distribute to our nonprofit partners who are providing direct services to clients.

Like Yevgeniya, some clients are immigrants; others are American born. Some have been caught in the grip of poverty since birth, others may have once been middle class until life took a hard turn. Some have struggled with addiction, others with the financial and emotional demands of raising a child with disabilities. 

Bravely, they allow their stories to be put out there for the world to see.

In these stories, there’s often a sense that the people profiled are dealing with a pileup of circumstances over which they have no control. What also leaps off the page is a profound appreciation for the kindness and generosity of those who help them. 

With $760 from Neediest Cases funds, Yevgeniya’s social worker at our partner agency YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood bought her a new sofa bed. It allows Yevgeniya to lie down because sitting for long stretches is too painful. 

It’s hard for many to understand how such a relatively modest sum can make a difference to people in extreme need. But it does. Equally comforting is the knowledge that they’re not alone

Another article in the Times takes us into the life of Monifa Cannady, formerly homeless, and desperately trying to hold on to her home. She works two jobs to support her two sons, one of whom has autism. Neediest Cases funding helped our partner Met Council pay her rent when she got caught in what is known as the “benefits cliff,” earning just enough overtime so that her government benefits were cut off. A backstory on the story (alluded to in the article) speaks to how precarious life can be for low-income New Yorkers. When UJA arranged for the Times reporter to meet Monifa for her interview, we never expected Con Ed to be there, about to shut off her electricity. Her social worker from Met Council who was also present jumped into action and arranged for a payment. 

Sometimes timing is everything. And in that moment, with thanks to the Times and a quick-acting case worker, we were quite literally the difference between darkness and light. 

As we celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends tomorrow, let us be grateful for all our blessings, and commit to doing even more to spotlight and support those who too often remain in the shadows. 

Happy Thanksgiving