Friday, March 27, 2015

Passover Reflections on Jewish Ukraine

Ilya, Lubov and their child Feodor (Teddy) Tokachov in their one room apartment in Kiev. Photo credit: Sam Sokol
On Monday, March 23, Sam Sokol, a reporter for The Jerusalem Post, published an article that sheds light on the harsh realities faced by displaced Eastern Ukrainian Jewish refugees and its effect on rising aliyah rates. The article was written in Kiev – the capital and largest city in Ukraine –shortly after a meeting with refugee Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski from the city of Donetsk.

Sam and Pinchas first met a year ago in the rabbi’s hometown of Donestk during the early stages of the country’s conflict – at a time when the rabbi had a more positive outlook for the future of his Jewish community. Recently, after being forced to flee his home, the rabbi now coordinates aid distribution – much of which comes from Federation’s partner—the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

The article discusses the orchestration and distribution of Passover supplies to Jews in need living in conflict zones along with the associated logistical difficulties; the growing number of internally displaced Jews, the unfair treatment of Jewish refugees in procuring living accommodations and receiving fair wages; JDC’s efforts to care for all Jews in need; and the overall deterioration of Eastern Ukraine – socially, politically, and financially.

These stories are not uncommon. The Jewish communities of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Sloviansk are caught in the middle of the conflict. Shockingly, out of the 10,000 – 11,000 Jews in Donetsk before the war, about 75 percent have left – either immigrating to Israel or moving elsewhere in Ukraine – effectively making them refugees within their own country.

“On Tuesday Morning [March 24], a flight organized by the IFCJ [International Fellowship of Christians and Jews] will take off from Boryspil airport here bringing a planeload of Ukrainian olim [immigrants]. Thousands have come over [to Israel] the last year, making Ukraine second only to France as a new source of immigrants.”

JDC staff orchestrating a cooking class for Ukrainian ladies.
Click here to read the full article that offers first-hand accounts from internally displaced Jewish Ukrainians and a multi-faceted and in-depth description of today’s Ukraine.

You can help.  Federation is collecting donations for Jews in Ukraine. Go to to learn more.


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