Ukraine Jews Prepare for Second Passover Under Fire

More Jews than ever will be reached by FJC and Chabad-Lubavitch

Based on an article by Mendel Super |

In Kherson, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Wolff wears a flak jacket and helmet as he goes about the city. He’s been the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Kherson since 1993 and has remained there for the duration of the crisis. On the front lines, Kherson is a dangerous place. “There is shelling here daily,” Wolff tells amid his Passover preparations. Along with the scores of other Chabad emissaries in Ukraine as well as teams of rabbinical students deployed by Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in New York, he is gearing up for a massive Passover campaign, ensuring that Ukraine Jewry has food, matzah and a Seder to attend.

More than 30,000 households will receive Passover packages, with matzah, grape juice, chicken and other staples, many of them manufactured locally with the assistance of JRNU (Jewish Relief Network Ukraine), FJC and Chabad’s umbrella organization coordinating relief efforts on the ground. Overseas Jewish organizations such as the Orthodox Union and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews have played a key role in funding the Passover campaign, according to Judi Garrett, JRNU’s chief operating officer.

Ninety-year-old Alik Alpert stood in line on Monday at the synagogue in Kherson for matzah and food. For the past 30 years, he hadn’t been going to synagogue; he’d been attending church. Now, for the first time in his life, the nonagenarian wrapped tefillin, with Wolff’s help, and recited the Shema prayer, declaring G‑d Oneness for all to hear.

More than 90 community Seders are being held by Chabad in Ukraine—from Kharkov to Lvov and in small villages throughout the country.

Rabbi Nochum Tamarin, who directs Chabad’s programming in the villages, will be sending 4,600 kilograms of matzah (more than 10,000 pounds) as well as bottles of grape juice to 1,700 households in 70 villages across the country., and rabbinical students will lead community seders in some of the villages.

In Kiev, Rabbi Mordechai Levenharts reports some good news: “Curfew had been starting each night at 11 p.m., which would have made the Seders difficult as the earliest they can start is 8:10 p.m. This past Saturday night, they extended curfew until midnight, which will allow many more people to stay at the Seder until the end.”

For three days, locals and refugees queued up in Vinnitsa for matzah and a Passover food package. Giant food distributions were held on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and Chabad of Vinnitsa, led by Rabbi Shaul Horowitz, will be hosting three Seders in town, with the assistance of rabbinical students from New York.

In Kherson, Alik Alpert, who said he had been going to church for the past 30 years, wrapped tefillin for the first time with the help of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Wolff.

Chabad of Zhitomir will be hosting hundreds for the seders in Zhitomir and in Israel, where their community diaspora has sprung up.

Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm and his wife, Esther, co-directors of Chabad of Zhitomir, have shuttled back and forth between their community torn apart by the crisis. “We’re seeing to it that everyone has what they need, materially and spiritually. The most important thing is to be happy. We are praying for the immediate and complete Redemption,” the rabbi says from Zhitomir.

In the Chabad center, in the orphanages, in hotels and in senior homes, Chabad of Odessa will be hosting 11 community Seders, including for their orphanage, which returned from a year in Berlin just four weeks ago, and for a group of 54 Holocaust survivors. Some 9,000 Odessa families will receive handmade shmurah matzah and food packages.

JRNU (Jewish Relief Network Ukraine) has been coordinating efforts on the ground

“We will make sure every Jew can feel liberated this Passover, even as the crisis continues,” says Rabbi Avraham Wolff, director of Chabad of Odessa.

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