Ukraine Update #57: Donetsk, Mariupol and Dnipropetrovsk Jewish Communities 

WASHINGTON, D.C. November 26, 2014

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

FROM: Stephen M. Greenberg, NCSEJ Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, NCSEJ President;
Mark B. Levin, NCSEJ Executive Director


Ukraine Update #57


Unrest in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine continues. Today, three civilians were injured and several building were destroyed by shelling in Popasna, in the Luhansk region. Since the weekend, several soldiers have been killed and injured in the Donbas region.


Observers continue to report on the presence of Russian troops in Eastern Ukraine. In addition, they say, Russia is supplying weapons and equipment to the rebels. NATO top military commander General Philip Breedlove, speaking from Kyiv, said Russia is helping the separatists to "understand the advanced weaponry that is being brought across [the border]." He also said that Russia has enough troops on the border to mount an invasion of Ukraine.


Russia denies its role in fueling the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Moscow also continues to condemn the Ukrainian government for targeting civilians and glorifying Nazism. Russian authorities criticized Ukraine, the U.S., and Canada this weekend for voting against an annual UN resolution condemning Nazism. In response to the criticism, the Ukrainian delegation condemned Moscow for supporting "nationalistic, xenophobia, and chauvinistic policies" in Russia and in Crimea.

Meanwhile, the five pro-Western parties that gained representation in the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) reached a coalition agreement last Friday. The agreement emphasizes Ukraine's desire for European integration and joining NATO. The parties agreed to revoke immunity for lawmakers, reform the election system, and decentralize the political system. President Poroshenko pledged to form the new government's cabinet within the next 10 days.

In a new strategy to fight the rebels, Ukrainian authorities shut down the central banking system in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The government also discontinued funding for public services, including schools, hospitals, and emergency services in the region. While the strategy is aimed at cutting off cash supplies to the pro-Russian militants, and curtail the local population's support for the rebels, the move is likely to dramatically worsen the humanitarian situation in the region.

Pressure is increasing on local Jewish communities and international organizations to meet the needs of Jews in the region. Under the auspices of Rabbi Pinchas Vyshedsky in Donetsk, humanitarian aid packages are being distributed to Jewish community members in need. Every day, over a hundred of Jews come to the local synagogue to receive food and other assistance.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is continuing its efforts to aid vulnerable Jewish groups in Ukraine, helping ensuring that elderly receive services at home, providing uninterrupted home care, and deploying emergency mobile units that deliver food, medicine, and other critical supplies.

Despite the crisis, local Jewish communities are trying to maintain their regular program activities. In Mariupol, pupils of the "Simcha" Jewish kindergarten are actively preparing for Chanukah. Children are learning songs and poems, preparing for festive the celebration.

The Jewish Agency for Israel is also continuing its programs in Ukraine, including operating a Refugee Center, which hosts dozens of Ukrainian Jews (mostly from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions) preparing to depart to Israel. According to JAFI, aliyah from Ukraine is still growing. Despite violence in the region, the Jewish Agency's Hebrew ulpan began a new year in Donetsk, and its Sunday Jewish schools, with over 230 students, operate throughout Ukraine.

Project Kesher successfully organized last week a number of activities during its "Week of Tolerance", including in secondary schools in Makyivka, in the Donetsk region. Project Kesher also organized a roundtable in Dnipropetrovsk, which included representatives from national cultural centers and partner organizations; the discussion focused on strategies to help those affected by war in Eastern Ukraine. The roundtable participants initiated a collection of warm clothes for displaced families, and will also bring concerts and events for hospital patients and for the refugees.

Outreach to Jewish elderly and needy in Donetsk

Kindergarten program in Mariupol
Founded in 1971, NCSEJ represents the organized American Jewish community in monitoring and advocating on behalf of the estimated 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including the 15 successor states of the former Soviet Union. 
Phone: 202-898-2500 
NCSEJ is a beneficiary of The Jewish Federations of North America and the National Federation/Agency Alliance through its network of Federations. 
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