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In Real-Life Anatevka, Ukraine’s Jewish Refugees Cling to Tradition

Rabbi Moshe Azman, founder of the Anatevka community near Kiev, Ukraine. (R. Litevsky/Courtesy of the Office of Rabbi Moshe Azman)

While many Jews desperately want to escape war-torn Ukraine - and feel grateful for The Fellowship's Freedom Flights so they can relocate in the Holy Land - one rabbi has built a safe Jewish community outside of the immediate fighting. This community, located right outside of Kiev, Ukraine, and named after the city in "Fiddler on the Roof," Anatevka, is now refuge to Jewish families hoping to escape the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Thanks to one rabbi’s unique project for Jewish refugees from the east, the Yarelchenkos are part of the nascent community of Anatevka, a small village that sprang into existence six months ago near the capital, where 20 families are now building a future based on Yiddishkeit and self-reliance.

Named after the fictional hometown of Tevye the Dairyman from the famed Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof” – and the iconic Sholom Aleichem short stories on which it was based – Anatevka is a tribute not only to that town but to the real Jewish shtetls (hamlets) that dotted Eastern Europe before the Holocaust.

Spread on a plot the size of three football fields, Anatevka features a wooden synagogue with two mikvahs (ritual baths). A rickety path made of splintered wooden pallets connects the three-story synagogue building to a dormitory-style residence with 20 apartments and a central kitchen. A ways off is a school newly built from concrete with 25 classrooms...

Between the school — the only structure in town that is not made of wood — and Anatevka’s muddy access road are the fresh concrete foundations for a clinic and rehabilitation center that workers, some of them local residents like Sergey, are laying under the watchful eye of the man who created Anatevka: Rabbi Moshe Azman of Kiev.

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