In honor of the upcoming festival of Passover, the holiday that for generations has symbolized the Jewish longing for freedom and redemption – the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS (FJC) sponsored by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, have launched one of the most astonishing and complex humanitarian aid projects ever.
Reaching out to hundreds of thousands of needy Jews, in both large cities, remote villages and territories under military siege in Ukraine and throughout the entire Former Soviet Union, the FJC and the Fellowship are distributing 100 tons of kosher for Passover Matzah and thousands of generous food packages – a necessity, a must that every Jewish family requires during the week of Passover.
Locations include countries such as Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan and many more – all of which have been directly or indirectly affected by the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine. Due to this horrific situation, the poor have become even poorer, yearning for help like never before.
Life for the vast majority of the Jewish population in the post-Soviet states has been very difficult for decades. However, the situation since the beginning of the war has worsened dramatically. Those remaining in the Eastern parts of Ukraine are in the worst condition – they have barely anything to eat and suffer casualties and unbearable difficulties.
Those remaining behind have received not only Matzah, but also extended food packages – alongside thousands of additional especially needy families from other locations – that had to be smuggled into Eastern Ukraine in a dangerous and delicate operation. These families have been cut off from government pensions and assistance for more than half a year, and are under an ongoing siege denying them food and necessities. All of them have also lost their jobs and income.
“It was a very difficult task,” says the Chief Rabbi and Chabad emissary of Donetsk, Pinchas Vishedski. “The Matzah isn’t just food for Passover, it also means a whole world to the Jews of Ukraine. It gives them hope for a better future, reminds them of their Jewish roots and enhances their Jewish pride and commitment.”
Many thousands more fled the war zones and have become refugees. They are scattered across the land, and have nothing of their own; they left everything behind, in order to save their lives. The refugees are also receiving special assistance from the Fellowship in honor of Passover in addition to the ongoing emergency relief that grants them extensive help with rent, financial aid, food packages and clothing, and their personal special needs.
“In Odessa, we have one of the largest Jewish populations in Ukraine,” says the Chief Rabbi and Chabad emissary of Odessa, Avraham Wolff. “The community was always large and has many families in need, but now with thousands of additional refugees we could not have managed alone. Thanks to the Fellowship we are able to provide everybody with assistance, and we make sure nobody needs to wait in line or feel any shame or disgrace.”
In addition to the vast population that has been directly affected by the war, tens of thousands of Jewish families from both Ukraine, Russia and many other states in the region are now suffering because of the financial collapse taking place. Many have lost their jobs, inflation has risen sharply, and life has become harsh and relentless. They too are all receiving the Fellowship’s special assistance in honor of Passover. No matter how remote their place of residence, the FJC present on the ground, in a complex logistic operation, will find a way to reach them and make sure no Jewish family in the FSU remains without Matzah.
“On behalf of all the Jewish communities across the FSU, I wish to personally thank Rabbi Eckstein,” states FJC’s President Mr. Lev Leviev. “The Fellowship in his leadership has an open heart to the needs of every single Jew in these lands throughout the entire year. His great deeds of kindness save lives and have a deep and everlasting influence on the continuity of Russian Jewry.”