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Orthodox Union and partner groups provide Passover supplies to 21,000 Jews in Ukraine

Since start of conflict, Orthodox Union has sent $5 million in food to Ukrainian Jews in 40-plus communities.

Matzah on a silver platter. Credit: Claude Truong-Ngoc via Wikimedia Commons.
Matzah on a silver platter. Credit: Claude Truong-Ngoc via Wikimedia Commons.

A year into the Ukrainian conflict, the Orthodox Union and its partners are supplying Ukraine’s 21,000 remaining Jews with food, other basic necessities and additional treats for Passover and beyond.

Since the war began, the OU has provided more than $5 million in food to Ukraine’s Jews and has helped to secure and distribute generators to more than 30 communities to supply heat and electricity over the winter.

The procurement and distribution were done in partnership with the Jewish Relief Network, Ukraine—an association of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries that services tens of thousands of Jews in more than 40 communities—and the Shema Yisroel Education Network of communities remaining in Bucharest, Lviv, Kyiv, Uman, Zaporozhyia and others. Shema Yisroel supports 45-plus communal institutions across the former Soviet Union including schools, orphanages, synagogues, kollels (institutes of advanced Torah study) and mikvahs (ritual baths).

In order to ensure that Ukrainian Jews have all of the provisions they need to celebrate Passover, including ample matzah and wine for the seders and the rest of the week, the partners have fundraised $350,000 to date as part of an ongoing campaign. The funds will be added to a $250,000 grant from UJA-Federation of New York.

The OU already has sent more than 4,400 pounds of handmade shmurah matzah (matzah made from wheat that is guarded through the milling, making and baking process) and 12,000 bottles of grape juice.

The OU has helped raise funds for the purchase of 8,000 additional gallons of grape juice; about 110,000 additional boxes of matzah; 55 tons of meat and chicken; 500,000 pounds of vegetables; and a selection of kosher for Passover products that include oil, sugar, salt, lemon juice, vinegar, canned pickles and olives, gefilte fish, tuna, jams, chocolate spread, cakes, chocolate, cocoa powder, tea, potato starch, spices, chips and soup nuts, and items such as aluminum foil and candles.

In addition, the OU is shipping 1,000 toys to give to children during the seders—for finding the afikoman. (The afikoman is a portion of matzah hidden for children to find during the seder).

The majority of goods were purchased in the European Union, London and Israel. Supplies will be delivered to warehouses in Bucharest, Kyiv, Lviv and Uman. The OU’s Chabad partners will oversee their distribution to both the Chabad and Shema Yisroel communities. To date, 10,500 attendees have signed up to participate in one of 94 communal Passover seders in Ukraine, run by Chabad emissaries.

Said Zevy Wolman, chair of the OU’s Community Projects and Partnerships and an executive committee board member, said “at the beginning of the war, our community was understandably shaken and acted in an incredibly generous way to assist with rescue, food provision and other needed funds. Unfortunately, human nature dictates that as a problem drags on, even though the situation is equally, if not more, acute now than it was then, the urgency of the situation wears off. That is why the commitment of the OU leadership to support the incredibly dedicated individuals on the ground that are taking care of their communities is so critical.”

The national director of OU’s Community Projects and Partnerships Rabbi Simon Taylor stated: “We are so grateful to OU supporters who have opened their hearts to assist the Jews of Ukraine this Pesach. We hope and pray that this will be the last time they will be celebrating Pesach under these challenging circumstances.”

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Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union (OU), or Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, Israel Free Spirit Birthright, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs.
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