Amidst the protracted crisis in Ukraine, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and its network of Hesed social welfare centers, Jewish Community Centers, and youth groups are helping Jews in the beleaguered nation celebrate Chanukah through a variety of activities for thousands of people, including both internally displaced Jews (in their new communities) and Jews in the separatist-controlled regions. JDC cares today for 65,000 Jews throughout Ukraine, has been providing a robust response to the ongoing crisis, and provides a variety of programs related to Jewish holidays, identity, and culture.
‘Our work in Ukraine is emblematic of Chanukah’s message to light up the darkness. By providing these celebrations for Jews and Jewish communities in distress, along with the ongoing relief we’re deploying for the crisis, we are enabling those who need it most to find comfort in their Jewish community. As winter sets in, the warm glow of the Chanukah candles, and of our solidarity with those in need, is critical for the longterm,’ said Michal Frank, Director of JDC’s Former Soviet Union Department.
Chanukah activities include:
In Lugansk and Donetsk, inside the separatist-controlled region where JDC cares for more than 7,000 needy Jews, Chanukah activities are happening uninterrupted.
The Lugansk Hesed is holding a Chanukah educational program to teach community members of all ages about the holiday and its observance; a party for teens and members of the local family club that will include the traditional candle lighting and Chanukah foods, games, a light show, and a dance program; and children from the community will participate in a performance of ‘Malishock Mazal Tov’ preschool program, featuring a costume show, games, children’s performances and an illusionist show.
The Donetsk Jewish Community will celebrate Chanukah at a holiday performance in Shahtar Plaza which will include games and other activities. The ‘Eight Hanukkah Miracles’ food fair — organized by the JDC-supported Donetsk Hesed social welfare center — will offer a variety of sweet Chanukah foods prepared by elderly Jewish Hesed clients of different ages. Additionally, the Donetsk Hesed created an interactive Chanukah card for use on social media that allows participants to send the card to friends and Jews around the world (an especially important feature for a Jewish community that has been impacted by the crisis).
Chanukah events arranged by JDC’s Hesed social welfare centers and Jewish Community Centers in the region include: holiday concerts in the cultural, musical, or theater spaces in Chernigov, Khmelnitsky, and Chernovtsy; family-focused celebrations offering workshops on making sufganiyot (traditional Chanukah jelly donuts) and Chanukah candles, holiday-related games, concerts featuring Yiddish jazz and drumming, and traditional menorah lightings in Kiev and Lvov.
The ‘Juice’ young leadership group in Kiev is holding a Chanukah charitable event with a proceeds from the gathering will fund medicines and treatment for a 9-months old girl from Vinnitsa with leukemia. Additionally, a Chanukah-related awards ceremony for Kiev’s young Jewish adults will recognize the community’s major Jewish public figures in the social and cultural spheres.
The renowned Dnepropetrovsk JCC is offering Chanukah holiday events for families including menorah lightings and holiday workshops, games and holiday quizzes, dancing and music with a DJ, and a comedy show. The JDC-supported Dnepropetrovsk Hesed social welfare center is organizing a large concert with performances by local actors and a special Chanukah meal for elderly Jews and displaced Jewish families. Volunteers — young Jewish adults and displaced Jews new to the city — will organize and run a holiday concert and activities for elderly Jews.
In the cities of Zaporozhe, Krivoy Rog, and Kremenchug, JDC-supported groups will hold Chanukah concerts and holiday food offerings. Additionally, over 100 young Jewish adult leaders will gather for a Chanukah Shabbat weekend seminar that will draw particpants from Zaporozhe, Krivoy Rog, Dnepropetrovsk, and Melitopol.
The JDC-supported Zaporozhe JCC is holding a traditional Chanukah volunteer ball, which is dedicated to both International Special Needs Day and and International Volunteer Day. The program includes a holiday concert and traditional Chanukah foods.
In Kharkov, the JDC-supported Beit Dan JCC is hosting a is holding a large-scale Chanukah event to support children with special needs. The event will bring together more than 100 families with children with special needs, the general public, and representatives of different organizations. It will include holiday workshops for children with special needs, a festival performance, and a bubble show.
The Beit Dan JCC will also host a Chanukah Shabbat event for its members, displaced Jews, and elderly Jewish clients and families of JDC-supported local Hesed social welfare centers. The gather will include a menorah lighting, Sabbath worship, and the sharing of the Chanukah story. Additionally, the local Jewish youth association is leading a Chanukah program — including educational components and entertainment — for Jewish children.
JDC-supported Hesed social welfare centers, Jewish Community Centers, and youth groups are engaging in a wide variety of Chanukah programs, including educational programs for people of all ages. Other events include exhibitions of Chanukah books and craft items made by participants of Hesed and JCC hobbying groups; volunteer visits and Chanukah gift deliveries by young Jews to displaced Jewish families and homebound elderly in Kherson and Nikolaev; and Chanukah gatherings for groups of needy Jewish elderly in individual homes. JDC’s flagship JCC Beit Grand in Odessa is holding numerous Chanukah programs, including: a Chanukah jazz concert, an art exhibition, and a charitable concert to raise funds for children in Odessa orphanages. Hundreds will also attend the Beit Grand’s annual ‘Mishpa-Hanukkah’ fair, a large-scale Chanukah event including a parade of cars decked in Chanukah decorations delivering sufganiyot (traditional Chanukah jelly donuts) and gifts around the city to educate the city’s Jews and general population about Chanukah. At the same time, holiday performances and workshops for children will be held within the Beit Grand Building.
The JDC-supported Migdal JCC is hosting a guest performance by the Jewish soloists of ‘Tal Tal’ ensemble visiting from the JDC-supported Kedem JCC in Kishinev, Moldova. The JDC-supported Odessa Hesed social welfare center is holding two large Chanukah concerns for elderly and family clients that will include performances by members of Hesed’s cultural club, local Odessa theaters, the State Conservatoire, and Stolyarsky Music School.