Voice of the Jewish News: A brighter vision for Ukraine’s Jews

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Voice of the Jewish News: A brighter vision for Ukraine’s Jews

This week's editorial reflects on World Jewish Relief's Pesach appeal - giving vision for elderly Jews in Ukraine

Vladimir reading one of his poems
Vladimir reading one of his poems

In Ukraine, like here, eye surgery on a cataract can be done privately.

There, a basic operation costs about £370, so not too dissimilar to here.

However, the average pension in Ukraine is less than £40 per month, so in relative terms it’s astronomical. The sad reality is that the cost of seeing is too high for most elderly Ukrainian Jews. This is where charities such as World Jewish Relief come in, especially at times like this.

This week we chronicle an optics programme for elderly Jews in the city of Kharkiv, and the charity’s corresponding Pesach appeal. Our reporter, who has family links to Ukraine, went there with WJR, seeing the work of its local partner Hesed and meeting the community. It’s thriving. Ukrainian Jews were once told to conceal their identity. Now, they embrace it.

But there, like here, the population is ageing. Catering for the impact of ever-increasing years in a poor country hit most recently by war and runaway inflation is proving tough. Money is tight and people are reluctant to ask for help. One old lady, Rimma, came to the Jewish community centre recently in glasses that were 20 years old.

Credit to the programme’s coordinators – nothing feels like charity.

It simply feels like a big community chipping in to help each other.

There are dementia classes, help for carers, home visits, even activity classes for Jewish children with physical and learning difficulties.

On the day our reporter visited, dogs were being brought in for cuddles with a small group of blind children, while next door, 27 Jews aged between 60 and 91 were engaged in an aikido class. Downstairs, in the library, a smaller group meet to share both poetry and laughter.

You can tell how active a community is by the centre’s noticeboards, and here they are stuffed full of up-to-date posters, notices, photos, reminders and thanks. There’s not a spare inch not fought for. If that’s a reflection of the health of Kharkiv’s Jewish population, all is well.

Now we just need them to be able to see.

Help perform the greatest mitzvah: save a life

While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.

That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.

We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.

Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”

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