Midreshet Yerushalayim Jewish communities inUkrainehave returned to a semblance of normalcy after last month's scenes of major upheaval and civil disturbance which led to heavy damage and loss of life, especially inKiev.
Gila Katz, Educational Director of Midreshet Yerushalayim, has been in constant contact throughout these trying days with the Jewish leaders of our family education centers inKiev, Chernowitz, Berdichev,KharkovandOdessa. Her sense is that people are coping, but the situation is tense. "Generally speaking, people have returned to their daily routines, but they worry about their safety and that of their children. Their lives are as if on hold. The Jews are suffering from the prevailing uncertainty like everyone else. We are all waiting to see what the future brings at a period of time where at any moment something could erupt," she says.
Gila notes that in the cities ofKharkovandDonetskmuch more of a "war footing" is felt since these towns abut the Russian border. "There one sees much more [Russian] army and military maneuvers and so, tension is much higher amongst our Jewish families in these communities.
And what is the gist of her phone conversations with community leaders? In one word: Thank You! "A sense of gratitude is what I am hearing most when speaking with families inUkraine. They continually ask me to share their thanks for the stream of support that has come from Jewish communities overseas; not only for the emergency funding that has arrived recently fromMasorti Olamiand Schechter, but possibly even more meaningful - are the letters, phone calls and prayers they have been receiving from Jews around the world, demonstrating to them most poignantly that they are not alone at this difficult time, but are part of One Jewish people."
More than 100 members of Kehillat Masoret Turn out for Purim celebrations
Purim celebrations attracted larger crowds this year. "People needed that feeling of belonging much more this year. Being together brought them a sense of strength in numbers and in purpose," explains Gila. InKiev, Rabbi Reuven Stamov was forced to rent a special hall to hold the more than 100 adults and children that turned out for Kehillat Masoret's Megillah reading and Purim Shpiel. "The message of the Megillah resonated with all of us this year in a very visceral way. Yes, there is real danger out in the streets and in our nation, but against all odds and difficulty, just like the Jews of Shushan, the Jews of Ukraine rejoiced together and hoped for better days," she explains.
Gila left today to present a round of educational seminars for Pesach and model Seders inKiev, Chernowitz, Berdichev,KharkovandOdessa. For Pesach, she will be in Chernowitz. There she will lead the Seder with a group of young committed families.
Masorti Olamiand the Schechter Institute have raised $41,000 since the crisis began. These funds are providing security guards and video surveillance, communal Pesach Seders, hot meals for children, enhanced security at the Ramah-Ukraine summer camps and additional camp scholarships in light ofUkraine's worsening economic situation. AsGila Katzso aptly sums up, the emergency campaign is providing in addition to its material benefits, "a real sense of spiritual and emotional security for our young and old alike."
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