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Hanukkah Warmth and Community for Ailing Ukraine

While terror plagues the Jewish people in Israel, violence and chaos still face the Jewish communities left in Ukraine. IFCJ and our partners on the ground in the war-torn country continue to help Ukraine's Jews. JNS's Eitan Arom reports on the holiday spirit and humanitarian aid that is saving lives and warming hearts:In rebel-held Donetsk, whose bombed-out airport has been a flashpoint in the conflict, the local Jewish community celebrated with a holiday performance in central Shakhtar Plaza, outside the city’s soccer stadium.Sborovskaya’s daughter is having a very different Jewish childhood from her mother. The 7-year-old, who wears a Magen David around her neck, is leading a Hanukkah dance performance at the Odessa Beit Grand Jewish Community Center.“It was forbidden here to be religious…when we celebrate Hanukkah so openly, it means we’ve really returned to our tradition,” said Sborovskaya. “And when we see young people, who do it very naturally, it means there is really another [Jewish] generation today in Ukraine.”Children are a particular focus of efforts to stoke a Jewish revival in Ukraine. In Odessa, JDC partners with Tikva Children’s Home, a center for at-risk children based out of Odessa’s historic Great Choral Synagogue, which held a party featuring a klezmer band on the first night of Hanukkah.“The miracle of Hanukkah speaks of a small group of people who managed to deal with adversaries from all sides and still win,” Tikva CEO Refael Kruskal wrote in an email. “This year, as we celebrate Hanukkah in Odessa in a country at war and financially unstable, the message of the twinkling candles is that, as in the past, we will overcome these hurdles and difficulties..."Accordingly, the JDC ramped up its winter relief program last year, continuing to distribute boots and heating supplies to families like that of Valeriya Sarabun, a 6-year-old who shares a poorly insulated room with her mother and two other relatives in Odessa.But Odessa is only one node of a JDC network that operates through 32 local Hesed social welfare centers in Ukraine and partners with organizations such as the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews...

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