By CAROLINE BRENNAN
Mexico rich in its culture and heritage, is also rich in its immigrant population who were welcomed to its shores from all over the world.
One significant immigrant group was that of Jewish families, fleeing persecution and strife in their homelands, many of whom who sought refuge in Mexico in the 1940s to start new lives. One daughter of Jewish immigrant parents, Sarita Marcus felt so grateful to Mexico for opening their doors to her parents that she founded the “Voluntarias Judeo Mexicanas” (VJM) in 1993 as a way for Mexican Jewish ladies to say thank you and to give back to a country that welcomed their forefathers.
Recognized for their uniform red jackets, white shirts and black trousers, the ladies of the VJM are devoted to helping impoverished communities around Mexico City.
Lilian Grinberg, who is the current president of VJM, explained that the VJM helps Mexican communities through several avenues. First and foremost, she said, the women work with the Mexican Red Cross, initiating donation drives within the Jewish community and contributing all proceeds to Red Cross missions.
Secondly, the group supports four hospitals and work with them to provide humanitarian visits, supplies and medical aid.
The VJM also supports four schools for children with disabilities, and its members visit the schools three times a year, at Christmas, Children’s Day and Graduation day. During these visits the VJM donates gifts, toys, food, supplies and wheelchairs, all donations from the wider Jewish community.
One of the schools is specifically designed to teach these disabled children skills such as carpentry, tailoring, baking and cooking, skills that will assist these children in earning a reliable wage in the future.
Another part of the VJM charitable arm is a weekly visit to Corazon de Ancianos, a home for the Jewish elderly in Cuernavaca where the VJM ladies entertain the elderly with yoga, dancing and manual activities.
The VJM also works with Project Magic, a program created by renowned magician David Copperfield, which “uses magic as a form of therapy for physical, psychological and social disabilities.”
Biannual visits to the fire station of the Bomberos de Huixquilucan are also on their list of responsibilities, as well as visits to the Centro Rosa Mística, a center for youth with drug addictions, orphans, and abused young women.
So effective has the VJM been in its charitable activities that the Mexican government, recognizing its endeavor and appreciative of its efforts ,regularly invites the VJM ladies to meet with Mexico’s first ladies. Furthermore, the VJM is a member of Fundación Feminina de México.
Grinberg said that the VJM today is comprised of only 20 ladies. Donations and supplies are plntiful. With all the successful projects the VJM undertakes, it desperately needs new members. And with visits to hospitals resuming due to the slowdown in the pandemic, Grinberg said that any woman, preferably Jewish, who is willing to help and devote her time is welcome to join the VJM.
Today, VJM founder Marucs is 88 years old, and she continues to work hard for the organization. And even though Grinberg is now the VJM president, she said that Marcus “still has the last word” when it comes to the organization’s activities.