Domestically produced kosher dairy items return to Ukraine for Shavuot

Despite the ongoing war, Jewish communities have received shipments of ice cream, milk, yogurt and cheese.

Ice-cream cones. Credit: StockSnap/Pixabay.
Ice-cream cones. Credit: StockSnap/Pixabay.

With the custom of eating dairy a popular part of the holiday of Shavuot, it is no wonder that treats like cheesecake and ice-cream are on many people’s must-have list.

However, for Jews living in war-torn Ukraine, locally sourced kosher dairy products have been hard to come by. Thanks to the Jewish Relief Network-Ukraine, Jews across the country will enjoy mozzarella cheese, whipped cream, ice-cream and more in time to celebrate.

In Kyiv, where the electricity is only intermittent and the sounds of war continue to ring, having a special treat for Shavuot is a break, even momentarily, from the war and a reminder of better things to come.

“Every year we prepare for Shavuot, we do whatever we can to come for studying and learning more about the holiday,” says Rabbi Ariel Markovitch of Kyiv. “This year in Ukraine, in Kyiv especially, we have one thing that feels the same as it did in the time of our receiving the Torah, Matan Torah, we feel like we are in a desert.”

He continued, saying “we don’t always have electricity or water, and it’s not easy. It’s hard to enjoy and celebrate,” he continues, “but when we have the opportunity to sit together and eat good food, it helps us to forget, just for a little bit, what’s going on in Ukraine and Israel, and celebrate the giving of the Torah.”

Kosher Dairy Products, JRNU
A sampling of the kosher dairy products produced in Ukraine for Shavuot. Credit: Courtesy of Jewish Relief Network-Ukraine.

According to Rabbi Yehoshua Vyshetsky, who oversees the production of dairy goods, “In the initial period of the crisis, the production of dairy was completely halted. Only around Shavuot last year did we gradually start to restore the production line. Since then, every two weeks, we’ve produced basic products like milk, sour cream and yogurt.”

Yet significant challenges such as ongoing power outages and a reduced workforce continue to plague the production of foods as the war continues. Despite those challenges, Vyshetsky and his colleagues were determined to expand their dairy offerings this year.

“We moved to a larger, more spacious factory and are introducing three new types of cheese. In addition, we are making new ice-cream flavors in honor of Shavuot,” the rabbi said. “The production line also includes products that have been missing in the recent period including dulce de leche and whipped cream.”

The goods were shipped to Jewish communities, including small remote towns and larger cities, around Ukraine in refrigerated trucks and arrived before the holiday to ensure that everyone can enjoy Shavuot, which celebrates the receiving of the Torah.

“Knowing that a Jew who lives more than 20 hours away from me by car is receiving dairy products for Shavuot brings me a great sense of satisfaction and joy,” said Vyshetsky.

To support the Jews of Ukraine, see: JRNU.org.

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JRNU is the largest boots on the ground Jewish humanitarian aid organization in Ukraine. Throughout the war, JRNU, the organization formed by the Federation of Jewish Communities-Former Soviet Union (FJC) to carry out humanitarian work in Ukraine, has supported 50,000 people with food, housing, medical treatment, medication, children's programs and much more. The leaders, staff and volunteers have been working in Ukraine long before the crisis began and there will be working long after it ends. All donations and support are used directly to support those in need.
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