We are excited to share regular updates on this page from the students and staff of Hillel CASE (Central Asia Southeastern Europe), which includes Hillels in five cities in Ukraine.
Hillel Kharkiv back in nature for Lag Ba’Omer! For the first time in over a year, Hillel Kharkiv was able to gather for an outdoor program. The Hillel community came together to celebrate Lag Ba’Omer with a bonfire, treats, and games about the traditions and practices of Lag Ba’Omer. Hillel participants and staff alike were excited to celebrate together in nature after so many months of upheaval.
Learning about art therapy in Kyiv: Over the past year, Hillel CASE has worked to provide mental health resources and support for young adults and their families facing upheaval and trauma from the war in Ukraine. Recently, a cohort of young adults from Hillel Kyiv visited the Or Shalom Center for Trauma Work to participate in a group art therapy exercise. Members of the cohort spoke about how they are hopeful these exercises will help them manage this difficult time in their lives.
Celebrating Shavuot in the rain: Dnipro Hillel gathered for a picnic to celebrate Shavuot as a community. Despite an unexpected rainstorm, students were excited to make milkshakes, learn about the origins of the holiday, and study Torah together. When the rain ended, the students and staff held a particularly emotional havdalah ceremony and reflected on how their community’s connections helped them overcome the struggles of the past year.
Children’s Dream Festival with Hillel Lviv: In honor of World Children’s Day, Hillel Lviv participants created a festival for children in their community. Activities included baking classes, fire dances, and sandal-making workshops. The festival also featured artwork for sale from children all over Ukraine to raise money for programming and support for children impacted by the war.
Stories from Hillel CASE in recognition of the first anniversary of the start in the war in Ukraine:
Hillel Kyiv and Hillel Odessa Meet for Shabbat in Chernivtsi: For the first time, the young adults of Hillel Kyiv and Hillel Odessa joined together to celebrate Shabbat in the historic city of Chernivtsi. Touring the city, visiting historical sites, and celebrating Shabbat were all on the itinerary. One surprise event: a marriage proposal, to which the answer was a resounding “yes”!
Helping Those in Need with Hillel Kyiv: At the conclusion of the High Holidays, students from Hillel Kyiv purchased and delivered food and other supplies to those in need in their city, even as air raid sirens sounded around them.
Celebrating Sukkot in Odessa: Each year, students from Hillel Odessa join the Migdal Community Center to fulfill the commandments of Sukkot, have a delicious meal in the sukkah, and remember the history and traditions of the holiday. A great time was had by all!
Shabbat by Candlelight in Kyiv: After authorities requested residents of Kyiv to save electricity by turning off their lights, Hillel Kyiv observed Shabbat by candlelight. Participants who could not make it in person were able to join the service online. Shabbat was celebrated to the tune of vinyl records and calm conversations.
Hillel Kharkiv’s Havdalah and Paint Night: Students from Hillel Kharkiv gathered in a local coffee shop to observe Havdalah and have an evening of painting. This event marked their first time together since February. It was a beautiful chance for those gathered to reconnect after so many months apart.
Dealing with Anxiety at Hillel Odessa: Psychologist Tetyana Abramova met with members of Hillel Odesa to discuss addressing anxiety during stressful times. Participants found the session incredibly helpful, and they look forward to meeting with Dr. Abramova again soon.
Hillel Kharkiv Rebuilds: After many months of rebuilding and healing, Hillel Kharkiv was able to spend Shabbat together in their restored building. It was a powerful experience that inspired students with the sense of how strong and resilient their community is and a true moment of celebration and togetherness.
Jewish Atlantis (a ten-day journey through the forgotten shtetls of Ukraine): This summer Hillel Kharkiv’s students traveled to Jewish communities in Ukraine and throughout Eastern Europe. While plans had to be changed several times due to the war, students were able to visit important Jewish historical sites such as the Krakow Ghetto Square, the Alt Shul, and Schindler’s factory. Students filmed video essays as part of the trip and are excited to share those with their community this fall.
Taglit group from Baku: In August, 22 students traveled from Baku to Israel through Taglit. In preparation for the trip, the students spent time together learning about each other and about what to expect from the trip. They were also able to speak with a Taglit alum who shared his experience with traveling to Israel and how it has impacted his Jewish identity.
Madrich Schools: 17 students graduated recently from the Madrich program which trains young Jewish leaders in Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. These students will go on to run programs in summer camps, Hillels, and staff trips with Taglit. They had a blast!
Service Projects: From the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Hillel Lviv’s students have been working hard to serve the vulnerable members of their communities in this difficult and unsettled time. Students work with children to make sure they have food and school supplies and spend time with older adults to connect with them and alleviate loneliness.
*Photo provided by Hillel CASE