Passover in Ukraine

April 14, 2022 | Deepa Bharath
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In the beleaguered Ukrainian city of Odessa, Rabbi Avraham Wolff runs a Chabad synagogue where hundreds of community members have been lining up to receive a kilogram of matzah each for their Passover dinner tables. As Deepa Bharath reports, unleavened bread is hard to find in war-torn Ukraine. Wolff’s wife and children recently fled the Black Sea port city for Berlin; like many other Chabad rabbis in Ukraine, he will be staying to host large public seders. Despite the war, the food shortage, and missing his family, Woolf is determined to maintain good cheer: “I need to smile for my community,” he said. “We need humor. We need hope.”

Chabad, which has deep roots and a wide network in Ukraine, and other groups such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Federations of North America, have mobilized to help Ukrainian Jews celebrate Passover wherever they have sought refuge. In Ukraine, Chabad plans 52 public seders welcoming about 9,000 people.

In Odessa, Wolff . . . has been waving in trucks loaded with Passover supplies—matzah from Israel, milk from France, meat from Britain. “We may not all be together, but it’s going to be an unforgettable Passover,” he said. “This year, we celebrate as one big Jewish family around the world.”

The JDC, which has evacuated more than 11,600 Jews from Ukraine, has shipped more than two tons of matzah, over 400 bottles of grape juice, and over 700 pounds of kosher Passover food for refugees in Poland, Moldova, Hungary, and Romania, said Chen Tzuk, the organization’s director of operations in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In Ukraine, their social-service centers and corps of volunteers are distributing nearly sixteen tons of matzah to elderly Jews and families in need, she said.

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