Jews in Ukraine will have food for Passover

Holiday staples, matzah and grape juice, fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and chicken will ensure that tens of thousands of Jews in Ukraine will be able to celebrate Passover this year without worrying thanks to the efforts of the Jewish Relief Network (JRNU), the Federation of Jewish Communities (FJC) boots-on-the-ground Jewish humanitarian aid organization in Ukraine.

The organization, which has made it its mission to see to the care of the most vulnerable in Ukraine, is once again providing care packages filled with essentials to make the holiday as meaningful and joyous as it can, even though the country remains at crisis.

An estimated 35,000 boxes will be distributed before the holiday begins at sundown on April 22. The JRNU Passover boxes include a Haggadah and holiday guidebook, as well as everything a family needs to conduct a seder, including maror and charoset. There are also staples such as matzah and grape juice; and perishable foodstuffs including chicken, meat, fruits and vegetables. A supplementary food package is also being distributed, to ensure no one goes hungry.

“I just got a call from the synagogue that on Monday I will be getting a package for Passover with matzah, grape juice and chicken!” said Svetlana, a young mother in Kharkiv, her voice filled with joy. “Knowing that the community and Jews all over the world are thinking of us as we celebrate our third Pesach at crisis is very special.”

Pallets of wine were sent to Ukraine’s Jewish community for Passover. Credit: Courtesy of JRNU.

Svetlana plans to attend a communal seder at the Choral Synagogue. Because the city is on the frontlines and still subject to curfews and blackouts, it will be an express one.

Thanks to the JRNU package, her family can continue the celebration at home; doing so “is what unites us and gives us strength.”

According to Rabbi Ariel Markovitch of the JCC Beit Menachem, located in the capital city of Kyiv, the boxes serve a critical need.

JRNU distributed tons of boxes of matzah were distributed. Credit: Courtesy of JRNU.

“The average pension is about $50, and although living costs are cheaper here than in Western countries, people still have trouble getting by,” he said. “One man told us that his rent and heating costs are more than his pension, and as someone else said, ‘We get our pension once a month, but we need to eat every day.’

“That’s why these boxes from JRNU are so important. There is so much in them, and the recipients can tell that someone about them. It helps so many people and makes them happy; it really makes them feel, like it says in the Hagaddah, b’nai chorin, like they are free,” Markovitch continued.

The food packages are being delivered at no cost to the recipients at a time when funding and resources to FJC and JRNU have slowed as Israel faces war after the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7. Yet, that was not going to stop JRNU from getting help to those in need.

Some of the tens of thousands of packages to be distributed to Jews throughout Ukraine in advance of Passover. Credit: Courtesy of JRNU.

“Like other aid organizations, we saw a significant decrease in donations following the tragic events of Oct. 7,” said Rabbi Shlomi Peles, executive director of JRNU. “We are extremely grateful to our donors and partners who made this possible, for the third time in as many years. We hope and pray that next year at this time, the crisis will be over, and we will be rejoicing in peace in Ukraine, Israel and around the world.”

JRNU is the largest boots-on-the-ground Jewish humanitarian aid organization in Ukraine. Throughout the crisis, JRNU, the organization formed by the Federation of Jewish Communities-Former Soviet Union (FJC) to carry out humanitarian work in Ukraine, has supported 50,000 people with food, housing, medical treatment, medication, children’s programs and much more. The leaders, staff and volunteers have been working in Ukraine long before the crisis began and there will be working long after it ends. All donations and support are used directly to support those in need.

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