Operation Milk: Abundance of Dairy Products Made Especially for Ukrainian Jews

Tasty ice creams, mozzarella cheese, and exquisite yogurt – these are some of the kosher dairy products that the Jews of Ukraine are currently receiving via a special operation that involves koshering factories and transporting products over twenty-hour distances from one end of the country to the other. Behind the scenes, significant challenges: including power outages in factories and a severe labor shortage.

Refrigerated trucks are currently making long journeys across Ukraine to deliver pallets of kosher dairy products, produced in the past weeks, especially in preparation for the Shavuot holiday, during which it is customary to eat dairy foods.

These pallets are being delivered directly to community rabbis by the Chabad network in Ukraine, the JRNU, which is managing an organized distribution system to all Jewish communities in honor of Shavuot. This year, the dairy products include a rich and indulgent variety not seen for a long time by the Jews of Ukraine: various types of cheeses and luxurious ice creams in different flavors. The dairy products were produced under the strict supervision of the Ukraine Kosher Committee (UK), led by Rabbi Pinchas Vyshetsky, one of Kyiv’s rabbis.

Rabbi Yehoshua Vyshetsky has been managing the “Ukr-Kosher” certification system for a quarter of a century. “Over the years, we have faced many challenges in producing kosher milk,” says Rabbi Yehoshua Vyshetsky. “When the crisis began in 2014, the production line was damaged, and it took us a year and a half to rebuild the kosher certification system in Kyiv. With G-d’s help, we managed to restore the line, expand, and increase the selection.”

The situation in Ukraine, which started a little over two years ago, caused a wave of citizens to leave, including many Jews. “In the initial period of the crisis, the production of dairy products was completely halted. Only around Shavuot last year did we gradually start to restore the production line. Every two weeks, we produced basic products like milk, sour cream, and yogurt.”

As time went on, the production line expanded. “Recently, we moved to a larger, more spacious factory, and we even introduced three new products: Adyghe cheese, mozzarella cheese, and sulguni cheese. In addition, there are new ice cream flavors, especially for children, in honor of Shavuot. The production line also includes products that were absent throughout the recent period, such as dulce de leche and whipped cream.”

The most popular kosher dairy product is, of course, long-life milk, followed by yogurt, butter, and cream. “It’s impossible to maintain Jewish life without a local production line of kosher products,” says Rabbi Yehoshua Vyshetsky. “When there are no Jewish products, it’s impossible to maintain kosher practices, and the fabric of the Jewish community is harmed.”

The crisis poses many challenges around the production of dairy products. “We’ve been in a complex routine for over two years, but it’s not getting easier,” explains Rabbi Yehoshua Vyshetsky. “The difficulties constantly change. Initially, the challenge was starting everything from scratch, and later on, there were constant power outages that severely disrupted the production line. Currently, there is a significant difficulty in recruiting workers. We are operating with a very minimal workforce.”

The JRNU network’s refrigerated trucks, which deliver tens of thousands of products to very remote destinations within Ukraine – directly to the communities and Chabad emissaries, are a source of great emotion for Rabbi Yehoshua Vyshetsky. “Knowing that there is a Jew almost twenty hours’ drive away from me, within our country, receiving a kosher dairy product for Shavuot, brings great satisfaction and joy knowing that we managed to meet our goal,” he concludes.

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