In the former Soviet Union (FSU), Jews face countless threats to their very existence – both physically and spiritually. These threats are especially great in war-torn Ukraine, where The Fellowship continues to facilitate aliyah (immigration to Israel), as well as aid to those members of the Jewish community who remain. Chabad reports on Or Avner, a Fellowship-supported school in the FSU that is facing the challenge of educating children in this time of war:
Of the 90,000 Jewish residents of eastern Ukraine some 40,250 are currently in exile from their homes. Many of these refugees, specifically children, have had to face what no one should have to go through, say the Wilhelms [the rabbi and his wife who founded and operate the school]—bombings, death, destruction, and the loss of family and friends.
Many families have landed in Zhitomir facing no home, no work, no food and no clothing.
Again, the FJC, along with the 15 Chabad emissaries and 26 Chabad institutions in eastern Ukraine, have been able to offer assistance for many of them to recover their shaky footing. All of this has been made possible, say FJC leaders, thanks to the ongoing support and partnership of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. In addition to schools, support also includes a wide range of humanitarian aid projects; a network of children’s homes; food and clothing parcels; financial aid for emergency crisis; summer camps for the needy; and hot meals at the educational institutes, to name just some of the services.
One physician from eastern Ukraine, a single mother with three young children, “had to just pick up and leave,” she recounts. “I thought I would only be here a couple of weeks and then we would be able to return to our old lives.”
Esti Wilhelm notes that while the woman’s children attended government schools, they were somewhat connected with the Jewish community and would attend activities with her children. “But when they landed in Zhitomir,” says Wilhelm, she had no work, and they had just the clothes on their backs.”
The doctor says that she is “one of the more fortunate ones in that I’ve found employment, which is a miracle in itself, and that I’ve also been able to find housing.” More importantly, she says, her children were able to attend Or Avner for free until she found work.
The school provides education to many, beginning in kindergarten…