Purim in Simferopol: Delivering Mischloach Manot and "JDC DNA"

Married for more than 60 years, Gregory and Asia Shur share their life together in a fourth-floor walkup in Simferopol, the Crimean capital of 330,000 people that has been at the center of much of the tension currently gripping Ukraine. 

Throughout the uncertainty plaguing the city – transportation is disrupted or difficult, the banking system is unstable, and the prices of necessities like food and gas have sharply increased – JDC’s Hesed social welfare center in Simferopol has continued its vital operations caring for the most vulnerable among the community's 9,000 Jews.

For the Shurs, this came in the form of mishloach manot – the traditional Purim baskets of food and drink sent to friends, colleagues, family members, and more.

“We were both Soviet party members and didn’t have a Jewish education to teach us about tradition, but we know what mishloach manot is,” said Asia, 87. “As you brought us mishloach manot, we’re giving you our hearts.”

JDC’s committed response in Simferopol is owed in large part to the leadership and dedication of “Katya,” the city’s Hesed director and a native Crimean Jew.

As the main source of contact and support for the city’s Jewish population, Katya’s cell phone rings every five minutes.

The daughter of parents who were members of JDC’s Agro-Joint initiative in Crimea some 80 years ago, Katya has a long history with the organization , joking that she has “JDC DNA inside me.”

Though she’s currently battling cancer, she’s refused to seek treatment outside of Ukraine; the way she sees it, her city needs her.

“Who will take care of the people here if not me?” Katya said. “I cannot leave them behind. I should be here with them until everything is safe.”

For the latest on our emergency response in Ukraine, visit our Ukraine Crisis Dashboard.

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