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For Ukraine Jews, Purim Holiday Merely a Respite

This week, the Jewish people celebrated Purim, the festive holiday that commemorates the biblical story of Esther and the deliverance God provided His people. Writing at JTA, Alan H. Gill notes that despite the holiday, the Jewish community of Ukraine – who The Fellowship and our faithful supporters continue to help – are still threatened by the region’s ongoing conflict:

Jewish perseverance, and more than a bit of chutzpah, lies at the heart of the Purim holiday we celebrate this week. It is one of the reasons we are instructed to mark this raucous holiday with boundless joy and why thousands of Ukrainian Jews, despite the odds they face, will join together across their country for Purim spiels and hamantaschen and to enjoy a much-needed respite from a conflict now simmering under a tenuous cease-fire.

These celebrations are but a momentary break from conditions facing thousands of Jews who remain in separatist controlled regions of Ukraine or who are internally displaced.

For the displaced — now living in cities around the country like Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkiv, and Odessa – concern for food, housing, medical care and jobs are overwhelming. Making matters worse, many face discrimination from potential employers or landlords who suspect them of loyalty to the separatists or worry these refugees will return home when peace sets in. Many of the displaced, especially the children, suffer from post-traumatic stress.

For those who remain in the Luhansk and Donetsk areas, conflict-related unemployment and general economic distress compound the bite of spiking prices for increasingly scarce goods and widespread devastation to property and industry. The elderly, many of them homebound, are not receiving their meager pensions and are experiencing acute fear and worry. Working- or middle-class families, who were just getting by before the conflict, now find themselves desperately in need …

These critical needs, worsened by a plummeting local currency and an economy near collapse, will not disappear any time soon. And all the work done by Jewish groups on the ground to date, while laudable, remains unfinished, whether or not the cease-fire agreed on last month continues to hold. We predict that millions of dollars in aid will be needed in the next six months to continue to provide the relief needed by thousands of Jews in distress.

Jewish aid to Ukraine — provided by local Jewish communities, Chabad, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the Jewish federations, World Jewish Relief, the Claims Conference and my organization, the JDC — has paid for a wide range of emergency services. Among them, the provision of extra food, medicine and medical care; crisis-related home repairs; extra winter items such as warm bedding, clothing, utility stipends and space heaters; and a full aid package, including trauma services and emergency housing, for displaced Jews …

So as we continue the legacy of Esther and Mordechai, of Jewish action in the face of insurmountable challenges, let us wish our Jewish brothers and sisters in Ukraine a hearty chag Purim sameach. May their brave resolve inspire our work on their behalf.

Tags: Holidays , Ukraine

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