Seven Things to Know As Ukraine’s Crisis Continues

Screenshot from JDC Crisis Update: Ukraine

As we enter the summer months, with a focus on family, friends, and general respite from taxing schedules and demands, let’s also reaffirm our commitment to the Jews of Ukraine. By Alan H. Gill Despite a fragile ceasefire between the Ukrainian government and separatist forces, news of violence is once again making headlines with major fighting near Donetsk. And yet the humanitarian toll of this crisis - impacting tens of thousands of Jews - is no longer in the news and is naturally slipping way from our communal agenda. Challenges to personal safety, widespread devastation, instability in the separatist-controlled regions, economic collapse, and a total lack of public services exacerbate the already harsh lives of some of the poorest Jews in the world. And it is our responsibility to … [Read more...]

Baku Bar Mitzvah

Rabbi Yonah in Azerbaijan

By Rabbi Yonah Bookstein Part 1 in a series on Azerbaijan [I recently traveled to Azerbaijan to speak at the 6th International Conference on Multiculturalism at Baku Slavic University. … [Read more...]

Limmud FSU Moldova Attracts Hundreds of Young Jews

Matthew Bronfman oresenting: "The Bronfman Family - from Ataki to New York.

By Daniel K. Eisenbud and eJP staff Over 400 mostly young Jews from Moldova have registered for a three-day conference in the country this weekend, sponsored by Limmud FSU, to reconnect to their once severed roots via renowned Jewish experts representing a spectrum of disciplines. The program, which begins today, will include lectures, debates, workshops, round-table discussions, music and cultural discourse in Russian, English, and Hebrew - all run by international volunteers in coordination with the country’s local Jewish community. According to Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU, a primary focus of the program will be recognition of the poet Natan Alterman and the painter Nachum Gutman, whose family members will also participate in the conference. “The Jewish community of … [Read more...]

The Dangers in Russia are Great, says Senior Russian Rabbi

Limmud FSU Moscow, the flagship event of Limmud FSU, is currently taking place in the Moscow countryside. Some 1,400 participants, most between 25-40 are participating.

Speaking last night at the opening of the annual Limmud FSU conference in Moscow, Alexander Boroda, Chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, said; “The Jews of Russia must realize the dangers inherent in the possible collapse of the Putin government to understand the rules of the game and to be aware of the limitations.” Boroda elaborated, “The government bears a similarity to that of the period of the Tsars, inasmuch as the personality of the president plays a far more important role than that of the president of the United States. All the Jews in Russia, and especially those who might be considering actions against the Putin administration, must understand the grave dangers that they take upon themselves and the potential consequences for themselves and for others. If they … [Read more...]

20 Facts about Hillel in the Former Soviet Union

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1. The first FSU Hillel opened in 1994 in Moscow as a collective effort of Hillel International, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. 2. There are now 18 Hillels working in the FSU, covering eight time zones, from Minsk Hillel in Belarus to Khabarovsk Hillel in Russia’s Far East. 3. Every year, FSU Hillels engage about 14,000 students and young adults in Jewish life. 4. Women make up 50 percent of FSU Hillel directors. 5. The overwhelming majority of Jewish students come to Hillel in FSU from completely assimilated families with almost no Jewish backgrounds. Students from St. Petersburg Hillel light Shabbat candles, many for the first time in their lives. 6. Hillels in FSU work with other national and ethnic … [Read more...]

On Both Sides of Ukraine Ceasefire Line, Thousands to Attend JDC Passover Events

Odessa Children Pesach at Beit Grand JCC (7)

Even amid a crippling humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) will hold a variety of Passover-related activities - from Seder feasts to matzah baking and Passover cooking workshops - for thousands of Jews at JDC's 32 Hesed social welfare centers and JDC-supported Jewish Community Centers on both sides of the ceasefire line throughout Ukraine. In addition, JDC volunteers and staff will deliver nearly 48,000 free packages of matzah, the unleavened bread traditionally consumed on the holiday, to needy Ukrainian Jews. In Donetsk and Lugansk, cities severely damaged during fighting and now under separatist control, JDC will hold matzah-baking classes for children, Seders for the elderly, and workshops on Passover foods and customs. In Mariupol, a … [Read more...]

Despite Ongoing Trials of History, Ukraine Matzah Bakery Continues Its Unique Legacy

Harvesting shmura, “guarded” wheat from fields surrounding Dnepropetrovsk to be ground into flour for matzah. Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi, the longtime chief rabbi of Kfar Chabad who passed away in January, is on the far right. Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki, the chief rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk, walks ahead of him. Photo courtesy DJC.com.ua.

By Dovid Margolin At the state-of-the-art Tiferes Hamatzos bakery in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, matzahs are hand-rolled and baked under strict rabbinical supervision. In this eastern Ukrainian city - the country’s fourth-largest, and historically one of its most Jewish - the crisp, round matzahs are carefully packaged and then shipped throughout Ukraine. But Dnepropetrovsk’s matzah output goes far beyond Ukraine’s redrawn borders; the bakery annually produces more than 70 tons of the crunchy unleavened bread, much of which is sent abroad and made available to consumers in Europe, the Americas and even Israel. For generations, matzah-baking in the Soviet Union was a hidden, secretive affair. Despite its constantly shifting legal status, with matzah production deemed a crime in some years and … [Read more...]

Displaced by Conflict in Ukraine, a Young Jewish Activist Shares Her Story with American Jewish Audiences

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When the daily shelling began to be too much to bear last June, 23-year-old Masha Shumatskaya packed up her belongings and left her hometown of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine for the safety of Kharkov. Since then, she’s become one of 2,500 internally displaced Jews aided by JDC after they fled fierce fighting between government and separatist forces. Today, JDC also continues to serve thousands of needy Jews in the separatist-controlled regions as well. In response, JDC has deployed emergency services assisting Jews caught up in the conflict, including: extra food, medicine, and medical care; crisis-related home repairs; extra winter items such as warm bedding, clothing, utility stipends, and space heaters; and a full aid package, emergency housing, and post-trauma care for displaced Jews - … [Read more...]