Rocket Attack in Mariupol, Ukraine, Leaves Jewish Community on Edge

Mariupol, Ukraine, was hit by a massive rocket attack in the Vastochni neighborhood of the city on Shabbat morning. It was the most violent day the city's seen in the past six months. Photo: City of Mariupol Website.

Many make plans to leave for good; others adopt ‘wait-and-see’ approach, with foreboding for future. By Dovid Margolin Shabbat-morning prayers were about to start at the synagogue in Mariupol, Ukraine, when the rocket barrage came. “The whole synagogue was shaking; we knew right away this was very serious,” says Rabbi Mendel Cohen, the seaside city’s rabbi and Chabad-Lubavitch emissary. Moments after it ended, the synagogue’s security guard, Vlad, came running in with the news: Mariupol had been hit by a massive and sustained rocket attack in the Vastochni neighborhood of the city. When the dust had settled, the attack left 30 civilians dead and more than 100 wounded, marking Mariupol’s bloodiest day since last May and a significant escalation in the war in eastern Ukraine. Fired … [Read more...]

In Eastern Ukraine, Glimmers of Hope Emerge

Winter relief 2 Ukraine

From JDC's Field Blog As Ukraine’s crisis continues, marked this past weekend by dozens of deaths in Sea of Azov coast city of Mariupol, JDC doubled down on its efforts to care for the most vulnerable Jews still living in the conflict-laden eastern part of the country. As indiscriminate artillery fire slammed into a market, schools, homes, and shops in the city, JDC’s local Hesed social welfare center, in cooperation with JDC’s office in Dnepropetrovsk, engaged in round-the-clock monitoring of the nearly 600 Jews it aids in the city as well as the general Jewish population. Among the poor elderly and families JDC cares for, homecare, medicine, and food services continue uninterrupted, and new needs that have emerged after the weekend attack are being addressed. As an example, JDC will … [Read more...]

Refugees Themselves, East Ukraine Chabad Emissaries Strive On

A Chanukah meal for families in Mariupol; its Jewish community, including a kindergarten and daily minyan at synagogue, continue to function despite the war.

By Dovid Margolin [This is the second of two articles on Jewish life in war-torn eastern Ukraine. The first, "Scattered Among States, Donetsk Jewish Community Inches Into 2015," can be found here.] The fighting was heavy when Maya and her family fled this summer from Lugansk, Ukraine. When she recently returned after three months in Moscow, her pantry was empty. Hungry neighbors had raided her home, taking any food products they could get their hands on. Canned goods, preserves, tea; all of it was gone. Nothing was spared, not even a few bunches of dill she had been drying to use for seasoning. “The only thing left in her kitchen were two forks,” recalls Svetlana, a friend of Maya’s who works for the Lugansk Jewish community, and asked that she be identified by a pseudonym due to the … [Read more...]

Limmud is the Sum of the People who Create It

St Petersburg organizing committee, Nov. 2014.

By Larisa Popovskaya Limmud FSU had its beginnings nearly eight years ago as a one-day seminar in Moscow. Chaim Chesler of Israel and Sandra Cahn of New York had the idea of developing for Russian speakers a version of the successful British model of a Jewish educational conference which had begun in 1980 and where people had a multiple choice of subjects and everything was planned and carried out by volunteers. It took some time to make Limmud FSU into a Limmud along the lines of the UK model, and in the beginning no one could imagine that it could become such a successful and popular event in the countries of the former Soviet Union, and, in fact, across the world where there are significant Russian-speaking Jewish populations. The project manager of Limmud FSU in Russia was, until recently, … [Read more...]

Scattered Among States, Donetsk Jewish Community Inches Into 2015

For the first time in two decades, no public Chanukah celebration took place this year in the center of Donetsk, Ukraine. But some 400 people emerged from their homes to gather in the city's Jewish community center to celebrate, with a large menorah illuminating the social hall.

By Dovid Margolin [This the first of two articles on Jewish life in war-torn eastern Ukraine.] For the first time in two decades, no public Chanukah celebration took place this year in the center of Donetsk, Ukraine. Gone was the towering menorah on Pushkin Boulevard surrounded by thousands of men, women and children from the city’s Jewish community; in its stead was the echo of artillery fire, fear and darkness. … [Read more...]

In Tbilisi, Georgia, a Celebration of 25 Years of Aliyah

photo by Nathan Roie

Tbilisi, Georgia recently celebrated the anniversary of the first aliyah, called the "great aliyah," 25 years ago from the Soviet Union. Various celebratory events will be continued in Israel during 2015 organized by the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business and supported by both the Knesset and Georgian government. According to Itsik Moshe, the first Jewish Agency director in Georgia, the aliyah heralded the beginning of relationships between Georgia and Israel and Georgia and world Jewry, still ongoing today. … [Read more...]

Dispatch from Odessa: Winter is Coming

photo courtesy JDC (Odessa, December 2014)

By Gil Shefler Every Chanukah for the past two decades, a giant menorah has lit up the central square of the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, bringing a little festive cheer to Jewish and non-Jewish locals during the long winter nights. But this year’s holiday season may be a bit dimmer. Ukraine’s ongoing crisis has made the price of food, medicine, and utilities sky high while the conflict in the east has displaced large and growing numbers of people. With planned power outages and the mandated lowering of thermostats to a frosty 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the coming winter is bound to be one of the harshest in living memory for all Ukrainians, including hundreds of thousands of Jews. I caught a glimpse of these challenging times when I visited Odessa - Ukraine’s third-largest city - with my … [Read more...]

JDC Winter Relief Efforts Expanded in Ukraine

Family in Kiev; photo courtesy JDC

New York, New York, Dec. 8, 2014 - The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s annual Winter Relief program - delivering tons of heating fuel, warm bedding, and clothing to needy Jews across the former Soviet Union - has been critically expanded in Ukraine this year to respond to a harsh winter worsened by the country’s energy crisis, skyrocketing costs, ongoing unrest, and the growing needs of displaced Jews. JDC staff and professionals at the thirty two JDC-supported Hesed social welfare centers in Ukraine are providing extra winter supplies and services to poor elderly, including Nazi victims, struggling families, and displaced Jews who often cannot afford their utility bills or have direct access to heating supplies. “While winter relief is a lifeline for tens of thousands of Jews in … [Read more...]