As the School Year Begins in Ukraine, Memories of A Summer in Israel Linger

ZMAN.IL 2014

By Avital Chizhik special to eJP With the arrival of a breezy autumn in Kharkov, students have begun a new school year amidst continuous tension. With the 5-month-old conflict’s death toll reaching 3,000 according to UN reports, and talks of a ceasefire, most Ukrainian high school students are returning from summers rife with anxiety and fear. But for dozens of Jewish youngsters, this summer was a rare breath of fresh air - having spent their summer in Israel. This past summer, 40 young Jews from war-torn Ukraine found necessary, if not ironic, respite in a quiet kibbutz in southern Israel - despite the conflict raging on the Gaza border. Flown to Israel for relief from Ukraine’s most dangerous regions, including Donetsk, these students were participants of ZMAN.IL, a special Jewish … [Read more...]

Limmud FSU Belarus – A First Look

Limmud FSU Belarus 2014 Gala

On Friday morning, 300 kilometers east of Minsk, Limmud FSU's 2nd Belarus Festival (ART Limmud) opened. 700 participants traveled to Vitebsk - the birthplace of Marc Chagall - from various cities around Belarus; they were joined by friends from Russia, Ukraine, Israel and the U.S. The opening gala Friday afternoon was held in the presence of Israel’s Ambassador to Belarus Yosef Shagal; Chair of the Union of Belarusian Jewish Public Organizations Boris Gersten; and Minister of Culture (Vitebsk) Larissa Olinsiya and featured a blend of Israeli and Belarusian entertainment. photos from ART Limmud 2014's Opening Gala by Yossi Aloni … [Read more...]

Limmud FSU Belarus Festival Salutes JDC’s Ralph Goldman’s 100th Birthday

Opening Gala Limmud FSU Belarus 2014

At the opening gala of Limmud FSU's Festival in Vitebsk (Belarus), the organization saluted Ralph Goldman on the occasion of his 100th birthday. Those in attendance responded with enthusiastic applause and the singing of happy birthday in 3 languages - English, Hebrew and Russian. In remarks, Chaim Chesler - founder of Limmud FSU - thanked Goldman for his support of Limmud FSU since its founding nine years ago. At the time, Goldman stated, "Limmud FSU is the best way to attract young unaffiliated Russian-speaking Jews around the world." The gala, held this afternoon at the National Theatre of Vitebsk, was attended by 700 participants. Joining the celebration was Israel's Ambassador to Belarus Yosef Shagal; Chair of the Union of Belarusian Jewish Public Organizations Boris Gersten; and … [Read more...]

Even in Siberia, It’s Never Too Late for a Jewish Awakening

Participants in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Family Camp reading from a Torah scroll in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk in August 2014; photo by Roman Ibragimov.

By Elaine Berke JNS.org Siberia is not known for its welcoming appeal. But in 2005, I stood for the first time in the warm glow of a small group of eager Jewish students in Khabarovsk, a remote Siberian town on the border with China, and asked how many of them had a bar or bat mitzvah. Two raised their hands. While many said they would have liked to have celebrated that Jewish rite of passage, they felt too old to do so. Yet three weeks ago on Shabbat - nine years later - I stood in awe as more than 70 Jews from across this vast region of Russia recited prayers, read Torah, and learned about Judaism at a hotel in Novosibirsk, the unofficial capital of Siberia. They were participants in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Family Camp, a program I founded together with the American Jewish Joint … [Read more...]

‘My City Is Being Shelled’: Chabad Emissary to Lugansk, Ukraine, Relates Her Story

Chana Gopin (standing), with friends at a Chanukah activity in Lugansk.

By Chana Gopin “I’ve dreamed a lot of dreams. I’ve dreamed about what I would do with my life, how my family would look, and how I’d develop the community to which I’m a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary. But what’s happening now wasn’t in the dreams. “My Russian-language magazine, "The World of the Jewish Woman," is celebrating its 150th edition. I remember the evening, 14 years ago, when I decided that we were going to publish a magazine. It was the dream of a youngster, wild about being a Chabad emissary, looking to spread Judaism in any way possible. We were a little lost at that time. We didn’t know the language, the culture or the people of our city. Now we feel the need to say ‘thank you’ to the Creator for giving us a hand and bringing us along all those years. He introduced me to the right … [Read more...]

JDC Steps Up Emergency Ukraine Response

Destruction in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, near Donetsk; photo by Rachel Calman/JDC.

As the crisis in Ukraine worsens, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has stepped up its emergency response as more Jews flee cities in eastern Ukraine and critical aid is delivered to those who stay behind in areas of unrest. The organization has been providing a robust emergency response for Ukraine’s most vulnerable Jews since the crisis began. JDC has provided a comprehensive aid program to more than 1,000 Jews who have fled violence in some areas of eastern Ukraine and found new homes in places like Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, Odessa and even Rostov in Russia. This includes accommodation and rental subsidies, food and clothing, Jewish community connections like family summer camps, and post-trauma counseling services. Through its network of Hesed social welfare … [Read more...]

Summertime in Ukraine

JAFI camp for highlights

Despite escalating violence throughout Ukraine, normal routine continues to remain a priority for Jewish Agency programming. By Avital Chizhik special to eJP It’s a hot summer in Ukraine. And the streets are mostly empty of children. Anna Landberg, director of The Jewish Agency summer camp in Kharkov in eastern Ukraine, sighs as she remembers the difficulty of recruiting for summer camps. “Parents are afraid to send their children out of sight here,” she says. “No one knows what will happen tomorrow and it’s been very difficult figuring out even the simplest logistics, like the children’s transportation to our camp sites. There are days when we are almost positive that the camp will be full, and there are other days where many families change their minds. Out of fear.” Despite the … [Read more...]

First Jewish Refugee Camp Opens in Ukraine; Many Still Trapped in East

Jewish refugees from Lugansk and surrounding towns arrive at a family refugee camp in the western city of Zhitomer.

by Dovid Margolin When Tatyana fled the beleaguered eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk late last week, she felt relieved just to have made it out alive. “It was a horror. We boarded the train under heavy bombing,” explains Tatyana, 50, who escaped together with her daughter, son-in-law and 7-year-old grandson. “It was relatively calm until July 13; there was some transport around the city, some stores were open. But then the real fighting began, and everyone ran to buy tickets to leave the city; we were lucky to purchase tickets for July 24. Anyone still there can no longer leave because the central train station was bombed, and trains cannot leave the city. People are dying in Lugansk, and it is getting worse each day.” Tatyana, who declined to give her last name, and her family, are among … [Read more...]