The rabbi of Golders Green United Synagogue has returned to Ukraine after 12 years and commended the work of Jewish charities there for moving Jewish Ukrainians away from a culture of hand-outs.

Rabbi Harvey Belovski spoke about his recent experience visiting the east Ukrainian city of Zaporizhia, with which Golders Green synagogue is twinned, on a trip organised by World Jewish Relief (WJR).

While the region is still poverty-stricken, Belovski said: “An astonishing change has been the shift from passive giving to empowerment: moving people away from being needy recipients to taking responsibility and giving back.”

Belovski also paid tribute to Rabbi Nachum Ehrentreu for helping to develop the city’s Jewish community, who Belovski said “has empowered and enabled people to take an active role in synagogue life and take responsibility for the future of the community”.

Golders Green Synagogue members along with World Jewish Relief staff visit the Edison Space co-working hub in Zaporizhia which was established by World Jewish Relief

Belovski added: “The partnerships and support that I heavily rely on from religious and professional lay-leaders in Golders Green just don’t exist here. But that is changing. Whilst still in its infancy, this support network will make a huge change to the success of the synagogue and the wider Jewish community.”

Among the WJR-facilitated initiatives now available to the city’s community is the ‘Edison Space’ co-working hub, which offers employment services, loans to entrepreneurs and business advice “to enable the next generation to become self-sufficient”.