A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Passover highlights

First night, first seder: There were several seders happening in the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community, including at the JCC, at Hesed, at the Yeshiva, one prominent private seder for parents of children in the kindergarten (ages 2-5), and the VIP seder in the synagogue, which I attended as a guest of the Ben-Zvi clan. Amir, Sharon, Ori, Ido, and I sat at a table near the bimah and the Kaminetzky table (“It must be nice to have your immediate family fill an entire table,” I commented to Sharon) at this most massive seder. You have to see the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish Community website pictures to understand the scope of this monster. It was not only the largest seder I’ve attended, it was also the fastest. It was so noisy in the cavernous synagogue, with every whisper echoing off its accoustically sound walls, and even next to the rabbi and Yan, who was leading the seder, I could barely hear a thing. Given the wide scope of participants, the goal was apparently to give everyone a small taste of a seder and then get them the food. It’s a shame it went by so quickly, because I know how much preparation went into it. Yan brought in the Jewish singers from the Dnepropetrovsk opera, and the Hillel kids were recruited to serve as helpers throughout the service. They stood in strategic locations and indicated which page we were on and which vegetable was being dipped at any given time. Believe it or not, they rehearsed for this several days in a row, for hours at a time. In any event, the seder meal was absolutely spectacular. There were five or six courses, featuring herring and salmon at each course, brought out by professional (goyishe) waiters and somehow served piping hot to all 200 or 300 guests. It was quite impressive.

Second night: No seder for me here. We decided to have the second seder on Friday night, so that everyone could come. We sacrificed religion for tradition and companionship, and I’m very happy with that decision.

Third night, second seder: This year I hosted my very own seder for thirteen people, including myself. I cooked for two days straight in order to have everything ready, and it was a great success. My guests were Lena Prykhodko, Joint secretary, and her mother and 7-year-old nephew, Lena Vodolazskaya, my colleague in Do Good, Ukraine! with her husband Genia and their two kids (3 and 1 year old), Anya Guiness, another colleague from work, with her husband Ilya and their two kids (4 and 2 years old), and Sveta, my Russian teacher.


The table you see here is not actually a table, but rather a door. Yes, a door. I only have a very small table in my apartment, with the four stools you see on the right, the two black chairs you see on the left, the couch, and an armchair. We were originally planning on sitting on the floor, until Ilya had the genius idea to un-set the “table,” take the closet door off its hinges, lay it on the small table, and set the door. As you see, it worked out really nicely! There’s more on this story in a JCarrot blog post.


You can see the seder plate here (I borrowed it from Hillel). There’s real horseradish in the center! I tried one… it’s pretty intense.


Lena’s mom, Lena P, and Anya.


My workdesk turned bar.

Days four and six (Sunday and Tuesday): All week in the Hesed grounds Hillel set up Matzapikarnya, a Matzah-making mini-festival. There’s a whole tour. First you sit in a small tent and watch some cute films on Passover, engage in a collective arts & crafts project, and then go to the ghetto Ukrainian grill to make your own matzah. I got to participate twice, with both the Sunday school and with the rest of the crew in the JDC office. Really cool. Very enjoyable.

1 Comment»

  Vladik wrote @

Awesome pictures from the different seders!

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