In a lengthy interview yesterday on On Point Radio, economic historian Niall Ferguson recently made a strong case for small business development as the key to job creation and economic recovery. He makes an important point, and JVS’s entrepreneurship programs are our contribution to this effort. Ferguson was making the case regarding economic recovery in the U.S., but earlier this Spring I had the privilege of seeing how small businesses are helping economic recovery in Ukraine. The micro-loan program of the Dnepropetrovsk Kehillah Project is one of many community development projects in Dnepropetrovsk that are helping to revitalize the economy, the city, and perhaps most incredibly, the Jewish community. Boston, through the Jewish Community Relations Council, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and dozens of community volunteers and agencies, including JVS, has created a remarkable partnership with the Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk. From state-of-the-art housing for the elderly, where there was none, to a womens’ health clinic, where there was none, to the micro-loan program, where there was none, the Kehllah Project has joined hands with the Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk to build hope and a future.

During my visit I was able to see the successful businesses of two women micro-borrowers. Tatyana Etinburg and her husband borrowed just over $5,000 for 24 months to open the Milk Café, right next to the synagogue. The café, which now employees several other women, is the sole income for Tatyana’s family.

Eleanor Baraley, was an unemployed single parent with a disabled mother. She had a small clothing shop at one of the markets, but it was destroyed by a fire. She borrowed $3,125 for 12 months to move into a store in major shopping mall. She is importing clothing from Poland to sell to women in the Ukraine and doing a thriving business. There are nearly thirty other business women just like Tatyana and Eleanor who have received loans to start businesses to support their families, and hundreds of others who have received business planning advice and support for their start-ups. They, and the dozens of small businesses we have helped launch here in Boston, are making a very important contribution to community and economic revitalization.

Jerry Rubin