Hillels rally to support Ukraine, educate students about the crisis



March 21, 2022

Students stand behind a Hopkins Hillel table

Hillels around the world have been organizing programs to educate students about the situation in Ukraine and how they can show their support.

Santa Cruz Hillel hosted a talk last week with Ana Sazonov, the executive director of Columbia Jewish Federation in South Carolina. She presented a historical overview of the relationship between Ukraine and Russia and shared anecdotes from her personal life in northwestern Ukraine, where she spent most of her childhood.

“Ukraine is very close to my heart,” Sazonov said. “My parents were still there last month, and I called them every day to try and convince them to leave.” 

Her parents escaped the war and are now living in Israel.

At University of Rhode Island Hillel, Executive Director Amy Olson organized an interfaith peace vigil for Ukraine. The URI community gathered and shared prayers and readings from various religions.

Student Isabelle Bise, whose mother is from Ukraine, shared a poem with the community. 

“I never thought that Russia would invade Ukraine, at least not in my lifetime. Nor did I think I would be asked to speak at a vigil for peace for Ukraine,” Bise said. “I grew up hearing so many stories about the Ukrainian people’s resilience, which we can really notice now.”

Amherst College Hillel also hosted a vigil, where members of the community shared poetry and prose written by Ukrainian authors and were joined by a large audience, including international students from Ukraine.

At Johns Hopkins University Hillel, students came together and led a challah baking event for Ukraine, and the following day they sold their challot on campus. The proceeds went toward The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore to help Ukrainian refugees.

“We made all the dough from scratch and sold it in front of the school, and we ended up raising over $500,” said Carlos Gamboa, a freshman at Hopkins Hillel who led the challah baking event. “That may not be much in the grand scheme of things, but I firmly believe that every penny counts.”

As the crisis evolves, Hillels are continuing to find informative and effective ways to help Ukraine. To support fundraising efforts, visit the Hillel International Emergency Relief Fund

Gabriel Lesser is a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University.