Violations of the ceasefire agreement continue to mount in Eastern Ukraine. Civilians were killed in shelling near the rebel-controlled town of Horlivka on Wednesday, as attacks in the region continued this week. Shelling was also reported near Mariupol and in the Luhansk region, where a major railway was damaged.
The Jewish community of Mariupol reported that many community members rely on the 'hot meals' program at the local synagogue that provides them with free kosher food. The program, and others, including emergency support from the JDC, are crucial elements of the community support system, as food prices in the region are rising.
Food cost is even higher in the areas occupied by the rebels, as the territory remains isolated from the rest of Ukraine. The update includes a Wall Street Journal article detailing the growing hardships experienced by the population remaining in these areas.
There is a renewed push in Congress to arm Ukraine. The Senate has adopted provisions for military aid to Ukraine in the defense spending bill. The House of Representatives version of the bill includes amendments that would block U.S. funds for training of the controversial Azov volunteer battalion in Ukraine.
Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was in Washington this week, and addressed the AJC 2015 Global Forum, where he urged continued U.S. support for an independent and democratic Ukraine. The update includes several articles on Yatsenyuk's visit.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power visited Ukraine this week. In her public speech from Kyiv, she reiterated the U.S. commitment to support Ukraine, and pressed the Ukrainian government to continue with its program of domestic reforms.
I attended the meetings of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in Budapest this week, as a member of the official U.S. delegation, in my capacity as Chair of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad (USPAHA).
IHRA is an intergovernmental body that engages political and social leaders from member countries in Holocaust education, for the benefit of their citizenry and the international community. It currently has thirty-one member countries, eight observer countries, and seven Permanent International Partners.
|Lesley Weiss at a Holocaust Memorial at the Berehovo synagogue.
||The national government of each member country appoints and sends a delegation to IHRA meetings, composed of both government representatives and national experts. The current Chair in office is Hungary (see holocaustremembrance.com).
While visiting Budapest, I traveled to western Ukraine for the day, to the Transcarpathian city of Berehovo. I met with community members and visited a recently restored synagogue. Berehovo, located in the Zakarpatia Oblast, is a city of around 24,000, with a small number of Jews. Located next to the Hungarian border, it continues to be primarily a Hungarian-speaking population. The Shalom Foundation of Beregszasz/Berehovo has restored the synagogue to its original image with funding from the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Commission, and private donations.
Despite Berehovo's distance from the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the region has felt its effect. While most internally displaced people from the east go to Ivano-Frankvisk, I was told that the majority of the doctors from the main hospital in Berehovo have been sent to the East, leaving the city without adequate medical care.
I also traveled to the villages where my mother and her family lived and owned businesses, until their deportation to Auschwitz in 1944. Although the villages were only forty minutes away, it felt as though I traveled back over forty years: unpaved, broken roads carrying horses and wagons, and lined by neglected houses. My mother's house was abandoned and the businesses have been long-since demolished. Still, the neighbors remembered my family and a caretaker is tending to the Jewish cemetery.