As Elderly Woman Sits in Darkness and Cold, a Chanukah Visit in Ukraine

Visits during holidays bring the plight of the wartime homebound into focus

As Jewish people around the world celebrate Chanukah this week, the literal darkness that is the reality for many in Ukraine is coming into clear focus.

“We visit people’s houses on Chanukah every year, especially older people who can’t come to the synagogue for celebrations,” says Sarah Wilhelm, who along with her husband Rabbi Mendel Wilhelm, directs Chabad-Lubavitch of Uzhgorod. “We celebrate with them, help them light the menorah and dance and sing.”

This year, though, as they visit the homes of the elderly, they are finding people who need even more help than usual as the country faces unprecedented power outages due to the ongoing crisis. “When we go to most people’s houses, it’s dark, and it’s cold,” Wilhelm tells “There’s no heat and no water. Many times, there’s also no telephone service because there’s no electricity. Very often, those we visit are living alone.”

One woman who Wilhelm visited yesterday was getting by with just candlelight. “We are bringing her battery-operated lights today,” says Wilhelm, “along with some warm food.”

Through relief efforts organized by the Jewish Relief Network Ukraine, FJC and Chabad’s boots-on-the-ground humanitarian network, community rabbis and Chabad emissaries are distributing warm blankets, LED lamps, winter-weather gear and more throughout the winter months. During Chanukah, they are also distributing holiday-supply kits to provide people with a touch of joy in a dark season.

Donations to help the Jews of Ukraine can be made here.

Based on an article by Faygie Levy Holt |

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