With Russian Tanks in Ukraine and Winter Approaching, Jews Try to Subsist

From the city of Lugansk, Ukraine, grad missiles can be seen fired in the distance, graying the skies and causing worry for city residents, including many Jews who have remained there.

By Dovid Margolin In the November frost, two-dozen men gather for morning prayers at the only synagogue in Lugansk, Ukraine. They don tefillin, praying by the gray daylight shining in through the building’s windows and skylight. One man, Valodia, is fluent in Hebrew and reads from the Torah scroll for the quorum. Before the war, morning prayers were held at 7 a.m., but now, with a citywide curfew that ends at 6 a.m. - and the synagogue cold and dark because its electricity has still not been reconnected - prayers begin at 9. It doesn’t make too much of a difference to the men who have gathered; they’re mostly pensioners, and if the war has left them with anything, it’s time. After prayers, a kettle is placed on the fire, and the group sits together drinking hot tea, talking and warming … [Read more...]

Lviv Welcomes Over 500 for Limmud Ukraine

A participant wearing a vinok, a traditional Ukrainian wreath; photo by Yossi Aloni.

By Larisa Popovskaya Limmud FSU travels around the world and every year this educational festival comes to Ukraine. This year is unusual. This year is the first time Limmud has come to Lviv, the cultural center of today's Western Ukraine and the former center of Jewish life in this region, which was then called Lemberg in German or Lemberik in Yiddish. The city is awash with Austrian architecture, narrow streets of the Middle Ages, the Ukrainian language, Catholic churches, European pavements, Ukrainian cuisine with Polish and Hungarian influences. The Western culture of coffee and a strong national self-identification of local citizens also makes Lviv one of the most interesting and diverse Ukrainian destinations. Jewish life was rich before the Holocaust, every third person who inhabited the … [Read more...]

Limmud FSU Lvov – 1st Look

Havdalah

A sold-out four-day conference of Limmud FSU Ukraine is taking place this weekend in Lviv (historically known as Lvov or Lemburg), the cultural capital of Ukraine. The conference opened with a moment of silence for Ukrainians who have fallen in the country’s ongoing civil conflict. Lvov’s Mayor, Andriy Sadovyi, a rising political persona, attended the opening ceremony in the city’s Center for Science and Technology. Other distinguished guests included Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Eliav Belotserkovsky, and local Jewish communal leaders. The Israeli envoy, noting an exhibition about Ukrainian Jewish history on display during the conference, said the community can serve as a “human bridge” to help build ties between Israel and Ukraine. More than 600,000 Jews from Ukraine have … [Read more...]

New Report on Jewish Life in Ukraine Released

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research four-part series on Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe since the collapse of communism has now been completed with the publication of their new report on Ukraine. The project, which was sponsored by the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe, was designed to explore how Jewish life has evolved and developed in Hungary, Poland, Germany and Ukraine in the generation since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Its overarching purpose is to provide investors, community development professionals and all interested parties with an overview of the realities and challenges of Jewish life in each place. This final report in the series is written by Darina Privalko, an expert in the field of Jewish communal life in Ukraine and a doctoral student working on informal … [Read more...]

Violence Overwhelms Donetsk; Danger for Remaining Jews

Despite a war going on, Dontesk's synagogue draws a daily minyan; many have fled, leaving mostly the elderly.

Jewish life continues with a daily minyan, although the day school closed for a while due to shelling. By Dovid Margolin October 30, 2014 - As heavy rocket and artillery fire pounded the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk last week, teachers at the city’s Ohr Avner Jewish Day School rushed their students into a room in the building’s center, where they silently waited for the barrage to end. Classes were dismissed early that day, and the 20 children in attendance - a small fraction of the amount the school had before the war - were sent home for the rest of the week. Fortunately, the only damage suffered at the school was some falling plaster and jangled nerves. There have been, however, dozens of deaths recorded as fighting continues daily in and near the city. “Usually, most of the … [Read more...]

Moscow’s Nikitskaya JCC Renamed In Honor of Ralph I. Goldman

Moscow JDC_Ralph

October 22, 2014 - One of Moscow's largest Jewish community centers, the Nikitskaya, was renamed today in honor of Ralph I. Goldman, one of the Jewish world's most accomplished leaders who died, at 100, in Jerusalem two weeks ago. The institution - which opened in 2001 with support from the the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and caters to hundreds of members of the Russian capital's bustling Jewish community each month - was rededicated as the Ralph I. Goldman Nikitskaya Jewish Cultural Center in a ceremony on October 22. The Ralph I. Goldman Nikitskaya Jewish Cultural Center, located in a 19th century mansion in the center of Moscow, offers a wide array of activities to local Jews of all ages. One of its keystone programs is Tapuz nursery and pre-school, consistently ranked … [Read more...]

In Chaos of Ukraine, Dnepropetrovsk Again Stands as a Beacon of Refuge

A view of the Dnieper River, which cuts through Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, and from which the city gets its name.

For decades, it was home to the Rebbe’s family; today, the city is absorbing Jewish refugees, as it has in the past. By Dovid Margolin Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine - From the viewing deck on the 18th floor of the gleaming, seven-tower Menorah Center in Dnepropetrovsk, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki points to the courtyard of a red brick building far below. “That is the last address where Rabbi Levi Yitzchak lived in this city,” explains Kaminezki, referring to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson - the mystic, scholar, and father of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory - who served as the city’s chief rabbi until his 1939 arrest by Soviet authorities. “It is not an accident that this building stands over the site of his arrest by the NKVD [the KGB’s predecessor] for strengthening … [Read more...]

As Lenin Statue Comes Tumbling Down, Kharkov Jews Watch and Wait

A statue of Vladimir Lenin in Kharkov's Freedom Square was pulled down on Sunday by a cheering crowd of 8,000 Ukrainian nationaliists.

Residents near Russian border are grateful to be spared major violence, but anxious about instability and civil war. By Dovid Margolin Kharkov, Ukraine - The early-morning Kiev-Kharkov intercity express train glides into Kharkov’s central railroad station, entering a city a world away from the one it left behind just five hours earlier. … [Read more...]