Chicago-Kyiv Kehillah Project
The Chicago-Kyiv Kehillah Project was established in December 1999 in cooperation with the United Jewish Communities. This community allocates close to $30 million annually overseas, primarily through the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, both of which provide service to the Jewish communities in Ukraine.
Through our annual overseas allocation, JUF provides approximately $5 million in unrestricted support of aliyah, formal and informal Jewish education, and support of the Jewish elderly in the FSU.
JUF continues to allocate funds in support of hunger and social welfare needs of the elderly in the FSU to reduce the disparity between levels of care among elderly (only some elderly are eligible to receive support from restitution funds depending upon where they were during the Holocaust). This year, JUF will designate more than $671,000 to address hunger issues in the Former Soviet Union and will allocate more than $168,000 in support of formal and informal Jewish education programs through the Kyiv Kehillah Project.
Last year, as part of a special national effort, JF/JUF provided additional funding to meet needs of the elderly and enhance the Jewish identity of the next generation in the FSU. In June 2008, the JUF/JF board approved and additional allocation of $500,000 directed for social welfare needs of the elderly in the FSU and summer camps for youth in the FSU.
Programmatic Highlights – Current Activities
JUF's Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program in Kyiv - For Jewish youngsters around the world, the Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a milestone to be celebrated in style, as they become full-fledged members of the Jewish community – with all of the benefits, responsibilities, and obligations that this privilege entails. For youngsters living in the FSU, however, celebrating this central life-cycle event cannot always be taken for granted. Indeed, while many Jewish communities in the FSU are experiencing an amazing renaissance that could only be imagined a decade ago, there are still insufficient numbers of teachers and inadequate financial resources to reach out to each and every child with the gift of a Jewish education.
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Project, which has been operating in Kyiv for the past six years, is a shining example of what educational milestones can be achieved as one approaches this transformative time in a Jewish child’s life. Two years are spent preparing and teaching the child and his/her parents and/or grandparents. After the culmination of the first year of studies, a festive Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration is held in the presence of family, friends, and community representatives.
Through this program, the Jewish Agency (which runs this program) does much more than coach the children to take part in a religious service. Parents are involved in all stages of the program, including lessons, lectures, trips, and of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration. Moreover, both parents and children are encouraged to continue the learning process: follow-up classes are held throughout the second year. In 2008-2009 there were 74 participants in the program - including youngsters, parents, and grandparents.
TZROR - which means bundle in Hebrew, has been operating (and has been supported by JUF's Kyiv Kehillah Project) in Kyiv for the past two years. It is a Jewish educational program which was developed by the Jewish Agency. It aims at expanding the scope of the educational continuum in Kyiv to include younger children between the ages of 5 and 11. It is the precursor to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program. Professional Jewish educators are convinced that the key to an individual's lifelong commitment to the Jewish community and to Israel is often an early entry into a Jewish education framework. TZROR is different from most other programs in that it offers a long-term program which provides Jewish learning experiences as the child matures. The TZROR groups meet every Sunday during the academic year. This past year 36 children participated in the program.
Counselor Training Seminars through the Progressive (Reform) and Masorti (Conservative) Movements
The World Union for Progressive Judaism (Reform Movement) operates a series of training seminars for counselors working in its youth movement in Kyiv, called Netzer Olami. The aim of these seminars is to enhance Netzer Olami youth activities, and in particular its summer and winter camps, by increasing the Jewish knowledge and professional skills that the counselors bring to their work with young people.
Midreshet Yerushalayim (Conservative Movement in FSU) also aims to strengthen its cadre of committed young Masorti Jewish counselors and student activists through training seminars. Through these learning opportunities, it is working to nurture and empower a core group of young leaders that will be able to sustain a pluralistic Jewish community in Ukraine.
Jewish Summer Camping in FSU has the power to strengthen Jewish identity in a profound way. For some, Jewish summer camp is the first time that youngsters connect to their Jewish heritage; for many it is their only connection to the Jewish people. The camp experience offers children and students an intensive and transformative experience during which they learn about the rich heritage of their people, celebrate Shabbat, meet Jewish friends from other communities in their region, and forge strong relationships with Russian and Israeli counselors, who serve as living role models of an involvement with the Jewish People and Israel. The Kyiv Kehillah Project supports summer camp experiences in Kyiv through the Jewish Agency for Israel, Midreshet Yerushalayim (Conservative Movement), and Progressive (Reform) Movement in Kyiv.
Lewis Summer Intern Program - Since 2005, up to two Ukrainian Jewish college-aged students have been selected to participate in the 9-week Lewis Summer Internship Program in Chicago. They live with local host families for the summer and participate in a comprehensive program, which provides an opportunity to learn about Jewish communal work in Chicago and about Jewish life in Chicago. Host families as well as JUF and Hillel staff have remained connected to the Ukrainian interns who have spent their summers in Chicago.
JUF brings missions to Kyiv.