FJC’s East Ukrainian Jewish community of Mariupol went on a vacation last week for a seven-day family camp called “Mishpacha Plus.” The camp was organized at a resort in the Poltava region, far away from the calamities of their war-ridden city. Over 35 families participated.
“Summer is a special time that gives us the opportunity to connect with the children and the grown-ups of our community in a relaxing, wonderful atmosphere. It’s a great experience for anyone, but especially for the Jewish kids of Mariupol, who live in a war-torn area – hear the explosions, fear and worry about the future,” said Rabbi Mendel Cohen, chief rabbi of Mariupol and one of the camp’s organizers.
“Here for a full week they breathe fresh air, every day is filled with activities – swimming, games, music, drawing, boat riding, ceramics, cow milking, contests, sports competitions, lessons, bonfires. Everything flows smoothly and no one wants to go back,” he said. “We thank all our sponsors who made this camp possible – this is one of the things that really connects between community members and brings energy and vitality into our everyday routine.”
The camp has become a great tradition for the Mariupol community and members were already asking about next year’s camp upon departure. “Here for a week we forgot about our fears, our worries were alleviated, my daughter and I became healthier and happier – of course, we want to come back,” said Victoria Smirnova, a refugee originally from Donetsk. Others agree: “This is the first time I had an all-family holiday – good food, so much new interesting information, I won’t forget this,” said Mariupol local Valentina Pashnikova. “This is a wonderful place, everything was so well planned out, we thank the sponsors and the Jewish community for this experience,” Alexander Sinker, another community member, agreed.
The Mariupol family camp in Poltava was made possible with the support of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the Meromim Foundation, the Christians for Israel-Holland organization, and the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS.