Preserving Vibrant Jewish Life in Ukraine

Over ten years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the amazing Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. This is a community that faced devastation during WWII and then continued decline under the Soviet Union. I learned of the large and vibrant Jewish community that had existed prior to WWII. I learned of the challenges that had been faced by so many people to sustain Judaism at home under the Soviet system. I learned of the many parents and grandparents who hid their Judaism from their children only to hand over Shabbat candlesticks or prayer books on their death beds. I learned of the near physical and spiritual destruction of the Jewish community over many decades.

I also learned of the incredible growth and rejuvenation of Jewish life over the past several decades. The local community, with the incredible support from world Jewry and guidance from the JDC, the Jewish Agency for Israel, World ORT, and Chabad, built a day school, a JCC, youth programming, a Hillel, synagogues, a senior center, and a network of services to care for the most vulnerable. I learned of the many local leaders increasingly taking personal responsibility for the work of building the community. They built a vibrant Jewish life from the ground up in a place where it had been nearly destroyed. While I visited a particular city, the same is true of place after place in Ukraine.

Watching the news and seeing the war and crisis in Ukraine is devastating. I am neither a political leader nor commentator and thus cannot say with any authority the long-term implications of the war on the region or the world. I can confidently say, however, that after rebuilding vibrant Jewish life throughout the country, Ukrainian Jews are in danger of losing everything that they successfully established. This unfortunate and difficult reality isn’t easy to process, and Federation and its partners are doing everything we can do to preserve what they’ve built.

We must now also face the challenge of how we support those individuals and families who want to leave Ukraine and reestablish their lives elsewhere while simultaneously supporting those who either cannot leave or choose to remain in their homes and towns. Additionally, there are still tens-of-thousands of elderly Jews in need of assistance in an economy that is increasingly devastated and unstable.

While the conflict and tragedy continue to evolve, it is clear the Ukrainian Jewish community needs our help. Federation remains committed to raising the funds urgently needed to secure Jewish institutions, deliver food and medical assistance, help those fleeing violence make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel), and more.

We are deeply grateful to the nearly 2,000 of you who have already given generously to our Ukraine Emergency Fund over the last few days. 100% of the dollars raised through this fund will support Ukraine’s Jewish community.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read more about the ongoing conflict from our partners on the ground and make a donation to support global efforts in Ukraine. We will continue to update you regarding the specific challenges and needs facing the Ukrainian Jewish community over the coming weeks and months. Thank you for helping us care for them in their time of need.

Shabbat Shalom,

Sign up here to receive future weekly reflections.