Kyiv inaugurates first new Jewish club amidst turmoil

The new educational hub, named “Smart J” or “Jewish Wisdom,” hopes to symbolize the resilience and unwavering faith of the Jewish people.

By ZVIKA KLEIN | The Jerusalem Post

In the heart of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, a remarkable event unfolded this week, as the city witnessed the inauguration of a Jewish club that holds profound significance for the local community.

The new educational hub, named “Smart J” or “Jewish Wisdom,” hopes to symbolize the resilience and unwavering faith of the Jewish people during challenging times.

Led by Rabbi Mordechai Levenharz and his wife, Devorah Leah Levenharz, the club’s creation represents the tireless efforts of Chabad and the Israeli Diaspora Affairs Ministry to provide a haven for Jewish children attending public schools in the city.

For the Jewish community of Kyiv, this milestone marks the first Jewish club established in Ukraine since the outbreak of the crisis. A joyous occasion, the dedication ceremony brought together community members, dignitaries, and representatives from Israel to celebrate the club’s triumphant opening.

The path leading to this momentous event has been fraught with obstacles. Rabbi Levenharz recalls that the construction began even before the crisis, but when conflict erupted, the project came to a halt. It was only in recent months that work resumed, thanks to the determination and support of numerous individuals, including the Chabad Jewish Relief Network Ukraine (JRNU) rescue center, headed by Rabbi Shlomi Peles.

The newly-opened Jewish club in Kyiv. (credit: JNRU)

The backdrop of crisis and uncertainty had cast a shadow of doubt on the project’s future. As the rabbi’s wife, Levenharz vividly shared with The Jerusalem Post that she remembers the times when they had to evacuate with members of the community, feeling that the end was near. However, her unwavering belief in the resilience of the community and the support they received from contributors both near and far reaffirmed their commitment to see the club through fruition.

What are the hopes for Smart J?

According to a statement by JNRU, Smart J aims to be more than just an educational center; it seeks to provide a nurturing space where children can expand their knowledge in various disciplines while reinforcing their connection to Judaism. The club operates daily, welcoming Jewish children for two to five hours, as they engage in academic and spiritual pursuits.

The event’s significance resonated far beyond Kyiv, with Avi Cohen-Scali, the director general of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, arriving from Israel to join the celebration. Alongside him were representatives from Jewish communities in Ukraine, Chabad emissaries from various regions, and members of the Israeli embassy in Kyiv, including Deputy Ambassador Liron Finkelstein.

The funders of this unique center, explained that it stands as a symbol of unity, faith, and the indomitable spirit of the Jewish community in Ukraine.

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