Kyiv Diary 12/26/2022: Light in the Winter Darkness

American synagogues are stepping up to the plate to help Ukrainian Jews get crucial supplies during this time of war and winter.
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Moment is publishing regular updates from Helen, a Soviet American Jew living in Kyiv. Read all the diary entries here.

My American friends have been reaching out with the question of how they can help us in Ukraine, now that explosions in Kyiv have become routine. The situation here continues to be serious: People can hear missiles, and some of my friends have seen drones from their windows or the street. As of now, at least 500,000 apartments in the capital are experiencing power deficiency, and many are also without water. Many households have electric appliances, and this means that cooking is challenging and even heating up the meals is quite problematic. Those with gas stoves host relatives and friends. Others are barbecuing on the balconies, though it’s forbidden by law.

We ourselves were without hot water for 10 days, and consequently without heating. And the winter has arrived—the streets and trees are covered with snow, and it’s cold! Yesterday I asked a cab driver why the traffic is so heavy, and he said that it was how people (the ones with cars) get warmed up since the car is a mobile power generator. Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitschko has opened special emergency heating stations. The supermarkets have slim pickings because they can’t operate properly when open. It’s all very hard to navigate, especially for the elderly, whose children and grandchildren are often scattered across Europe and have no one to take care of them.

So I thought it would be a great idea to get assistance from American synagogues to Ukrainian synagogues, especially considering the holidays. Solar rechargeable gadgets and power banks are completely sold out in Ukraine. Even if some gadgets occasionally appear on the local market, the prices are so high that most families just can’t afford them. It would indeed be a great mitzvah if the synagogues could raise funds and provide solar lamps and power banks to Jewish families in Kyiv.

Seeking help to meet these challenges, I reached out to 20+ synagogues. The first one to respond was Paulette Black from Beth El Temple Center in Belmont, Massachusetts, a Reform synagogue. Actually, it was the sisterhood WRJ@BETC, the proud members of Women of Reform Judaism. Other synagogues have expressed eagerness to support Kyiv Jewish families during these horrific times as well, such as Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, where I’m corresponding with Rabbi Stephanie Kolin. They have organized a special committee and the fundraising has already reached $17,000. Rabbi Annie Tucker from the Temple Israel Center in White Plains responded right away as well, and I’ve just recently got a reply from Rabbi Shuli Passow from B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan.

I strongly believe that Jewish people should stay united in wartime. With all the electricity breakages and the cold winter ahead, the joint efforts in sending gadgets to Kyiv will help many Jewish familes get through these challenging times. I hope this unity will last and will grow into a strong friendship in peacetime.

In addition to the outreach I mention above, I have raised $3000 through the network of my daughter’s friends (she works at The Vilna Shul, Boston’s Center for Jewish Culture) and have placed orders (which took me hours and hours of research) for power stations, power banks, solar lamps, heaters, etc. (65 items altogether which are on the way.) The first parcel with portable room heaters purchased by my friend Ruth Wasser arrived on Friday, December 16th, and two power portable generators came on Tuesday, December 20th!

I’m passing these support items to Rabbi Reuven, who I’ve written about before, and he is going to distribute the goods among members of his congregation, many members of which are in Odesa, a big port city on the Black Sea about as far from Kyiv as Boston is from New York. The damage in Odesa is so severe that residents have been in a full blackout since December 7th, and 50% of residents are cut off from power. Reuven has organized Hanukkah Shabbaton, giur, Shabbat, and Hanukkah celebrations. Hanukkah was celebrated just with Hanukkah candles, no electricity, and people were praying for peace and for the “light not to go out.”

The more families the synagogues can help the better. Yet, life under missiles goes on and people do their best to continue with their everyday routines and stay strong in their spirits. As an example, we went to the Opera house to see a ballet last week. There were a lot of people, and the performance was wonderful!

Editor’s Note: If you’d like to get in touch with Helen, please email editor@momentmag.com.

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One thought on “Kyiv Diary 12/26/2022: Light in the Winter Darkness

  1. hag says:

    WHY just Ukranian jews ?
    WHY not all Ukranians ?
    actually why not all people ??????????????

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