Ukraine Update 20.3.2022: Celebrating Purim Under Fire


On Friday, March 18th, Rabbi Irina Gritsevskaya, Executive Director of Midreshet Schechter Ukraine, and Rabbi Avi Novis-Deutsch, Dean of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, returned to Israel after spending Purim with the Midreshet Schechter/Masorti Olami community in Chernivtsi, Ukraine. Along with needed supplies, they brought a Megila to read at two large celebrations. The first was in the evening for the refugees who have evacuated to Chernivtsi from all over Ukraine. The second was held the following day for the local kehilla because the community building could not accommodate everyone. The community continues as usual with Sunday school, Torah lessons, and Hebrew ulpan, all in the shadow of the war. Over 100 people there have received direct financial support from Midreshet Schechter and Masorti Olami.

Rabbi Gritsevskaya had many conversations with people about the various exit options and managed, with assistance from Tehila Reuben of Masorti Olami, the following:

  • With help from Ezer Mizion, evacuated a man who is ill with a rare disease to a medical transport flight.
  • Assisted Israelis without passports in preparing the required travel documents through the consulate at the border.
  • Helped a woman in an advanced stage of pregnancy find a place near Berlin for her and her mother.

The other three communities are in varying degrees of distress:

“In Kharkiv,” Gritsevskaya says “Purim was terrible.” The few children who are still in the city came to school, as did the elders and those sheltering in the school basement. School teachers had just put Hamantashen in the oven when a nearby bombing caused a power outage and the water to stop, resulting in uncooked holiday treats.

In Kyiv, the community administrative director, Maxim, hid the Torah scrolls better to protect them. Much of the community has evacuated to Chernivtsi or left Ukraine altogether. Like many who remain in Kyiv, Maxim is caring for elderly parents. There are still people in Kyiv hiding in shelters and receiving support from us.

Odessa is very unsettled, with continual bombing from the sea. Community members remain in their homes, and some are afraid to go outside. Nonetheless, there was a small Purim celebration supported by Midreshet Schechter and Masorti Olami.

Meanwhile, in Israel, evacuees who are already here are starting to get acclimated in Kibbutz Ketura, Hannaton, and by other generous Masorti families around the country. More people from our communities will be making aliyah this week.

Many of our Ukrainian Masorti community members are in Berlin. Families have split up with the men remaining in Chernivtsi while the women and children are in Berlin. No words can express our thanks for the generosity of the Oranienburger Strasse Synagogue’, and Rabbi Gesa Ederberg!

With so many members of our communities displaced and with refugee status, we continue in our emergency campaign to raise funds to support them. Together with your help, we can make everyone feel a bit safer and more welcome.

The Schechter Institutes, together with our partners at Masorti Olami are currently spending $25,000 each week to house, feed and meet travel expenses for hundreds of people in Ukraine:

  • $8,000 per week for hotel rooms and apartments in Chernivtsi
  • $4,000 per week for food served at the Masorti Refugee Center in Chernivtsi
  • $5,000 each week on travel/tickets for refugees coming to Israel
  • An average of $5,000 each week on direct support for people still in besieged cities
  • Payment for the community’s temporary lodging and expenses in Romania
  • Helping our Masorti communities in Germany, Hungary, and Poland to welcome and house members of the Ukrainian communities

To donate via The Schechter Institutes or via Masorti Olami.

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