Despite an ongoing crisis in Ukraine, exacerbated today by growing humanitarian needs, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and Jews around Ukraine celebrated Purim this week with a series of events across the country, including in cities in and near the conflict zone.
For Jews who are displaced or those remaining in separatist controlled areas, Purim will be marked by synagogue services, concerts, and other special holiday gatherings at JDC-supported Jewish community and social welfare centers. Additionally, JDC and its local volunteers will deliver mischloach manot (gift packages) to homebound elderly and displaced Jewish families.
Purim events and gift package delivery – including the holding of humorous Purimspeils (traditional holiday parody plays) – are due to take place throughout Ukraine, with a special focus in eastern cities like Donetsk, Lugansk, Dnepropetrovsk, Khakrov, Artemivsk, and Krasnaormiisk.
For the 2,500 displaced Jews JDC is caring for, these Purim events connect them to local Jewish communities where they are making new homes. At these events, children and adults will dress up in costume, enjoy hamantashen and the festive atmosphere even amid the challenges they, like the rest of their neighbors in Ukraine, face.
Since the crisis began, JDC has deployed emergency services assisting thousands of 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 and emergency housing for displaced Jews.
As the crisis has worsened, 2,700 people have been added to JDC’s aid rolls, many who never needed JDC assistance in the past. These include working or middle class Jewish families who find themselves struggling with conflict-related unemployment and general economic distress related to spiking prices on basic goods and utilities, the collapsing local currency, and widespread devastation to property and industry.
All photos: from “The Purim Spiel” at the Beit Dan JCC in Kharkov (March 2015) for the local Jewish community, including Hesed clients and displaced Jews now living in the city.