A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for eastern Ukraine

Yom HaShoah

Holocaust Remembrance Day is an extremely important and meaningful holiday for Jews throughout Ukraine. Guests came from all over the country– from Kharkov, Dneprodzerzhinsk, and other eastern Ukrainian cities– as well as from Israel. In addition to the JDC Jerusalem group, the Metsudah leader, Shy, also came to Dnepropetrovsk to commemorate the occasion.

We congregated around the memorial that commemorates where the Jews of Dnepropetrovsk were executed at the start of the Holocaust. There were speeches by Rabbi Kaminetzky, Aharon Weiss, survivers and their relatives, high school students, and others. Poetry was read, candles were lit, and Yulia and I sang a sad Hebrew piece, Eli Eli. We then laid carnations and stones on the memorial. It was a beautiful and moving ceremony. You can see the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish Community’s pictures of the event here.

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JCC Oscars

In the past two years, the Jewish Community Center has made four films, including Purimspiel, the silent film we made at Sunday school. On April 19 the JCC held an Oscars ceremony to celebrate these films and those who participated in the process of creating them. The JDC Jerusalem group, visiting eastern Ukraine for the week, attended as well. My friend Yulia and I sang a Hebrew song, HaLev, between film screenings. It was quite a celebration.

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East vs West

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December advertisement featuring Valeriy Konovalyuk, a member of the Party of Regions, which has strong ties to Russia. The sign reads:

“Issue at stake: NATIONAL IDEA
Valeriy Konovalyuk
Farewell, arms!
Farewell, NATO!
National idea:
A new Ukraine-
Without the right to mistakes”

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Metsudah

This post dates back to the 17th of November; I just now realized that I never published it! Enjoy this blast from the past…

I had heard so much about the Metsudah program in my short time here, but couldn’t really understand what made it so special. This weekend I had the chance to experience it firsthand.

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So much to be thankful for

This Thanksgiving, while I was at home in NY celebrating with all those people who are dearest to me, the lives of my counterparts in Mumbai were drastically changed. The Chabad Rabbi and his wife, central figures in the small Mumbai Jewish community, were among the 188 victims, and the Jewish center was one of the primary targets during the four days of terror.

The following JTA article shares a little about Gavriel and Rifkah Holtzberg and the welcoming community they created.

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Save Yourself

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I am travelling the 1.5 hours to Zaporozhe, the evening before I am to leave for America, in order to witness firsthand a JCC charity fundraiser. The event, a freestyle competition, is called “Сохрани себя,” or “Save Yourself.” Entrance was 10 грн (grivnas), and all proceeds go to the family of Anton, a 22-year-old diagnosed with leukemia.

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Economic crisis in Ukraine

The worldwide economic crisis has not passed over Ukraine. Every day the grivna (Ukrainian currency) deflates even more. While this is great for me, because I get more bang for my buck, it is really destroying Ukraine, whose economy is based largely on exports. This Kyiv Post article discusses the effect on the steel industry, based in the east (ie: where I live and work!). The article was written in Donetsk, one of the cities I travel to quite often; I just got back from a business trip there yesterday, in fact. Most eastern cities, like Dnepropetrovsk and Donetsk, are large industrial centers that run the entire Ukrainian economy, so while the crisis has only begun affecting the east, it will soon spread to the west. Already banks are suffering. I have heard stories of banks and ATM machines running low on cash in the past month. Naturally, investment in gold, like in the US, has greatly increased. JDC is struggling to cut its budget without having to cut services or fire employees. It’s rough. Things are looking up, though. The Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) finally met after two weeks of being deadlocked to approve legislation for a $16.5 billion loan from the IMF. This should help float the grivna and give banks more liquidity. For more, check out this Business Ukraine article.