In the past few days, Ukrainian Jews were in for a treat: A number of trucks, filled with dairy food items, traveled between Jewish communities throughout Ukraine, unloading pallets of dairy products for the upcoming Shavuot holiday that will happen next week when it is customary to eat dairy foods.
These trucks traveled from Volodymyr Zelensky's hometown in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast to the bombed city of Kharkiv, through the calm city of Poltava in central Ukraine to the tense capital of Kyiv.
The delivery trucks made their way toward the Jewish communities all over the country, unloading pallets of different dairy products, meat, poultry, and other basic food products. The goods were distributed by the rabbis of the communities and Chabad emissaries to tens of thousands of local Jewish families on the occasion of Shavuot. This activity took place as the Jews in Ukraine prepared for Shavuot amid the loud sounds of explosions as part of the ongoing war with Russia.
The trucks passed through dozens of communities in the cities of Zhytomyr, Lviv, Uzhgorod, Chernivtsi, Khmelnytskyi, Vinnytsia, Berdytsov, Cherkasy, Karponitskyi, Kryvyi Rih, Kremenchuk, Poltava, Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Uman, Odesa, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Fromeysk, Kaminsky, Dnieper, Zaporizhzhia and more. The large-scale distribution system was run by Jewish Relief Network Ukraine (JNRU), which has been one of the main organizations assisting Ukrainian Jews, as well as funding its activities, since the fall of the 'Iron Curtain'.
The dairy ice creams, like the rest of the products included in the shipments, were produced in local food factories under the supervision of the Kosher Committee in Ukraine headed by Rabbi Pinchas Vishetski, who is also a Chabad emissary in Ukraine. The trucks delivered different Kosher yogurts, ice creams, milk, cheeses and other dairy products that cannot be found in Ukraine during its current difficult situation.
What is Shavuot?
Shavuot, the Jewish holiday known as the Festival of Weeks is celebrated on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan. Shavuot commemorates the receiving of the Torah by the ancient Israelites at Mount Sinai. Beyond its historical significance, Shavuot is a time of joyous celebration and spiritual reflection, as families and communities gather to observe traditions and customs passed down through generations. It is a holiday marked by the reading of sacred texts, engaging in acts of kindness and indulging in delicious dairy-based delicacies.
The food distribution campaign for Jews all over Ukraine for the holiday of Shavuot was part of the extensive preparations of the Jewish communities in the country towards another holiday celebrated in the shadow of the fierce war.
"During these days, a massive campaign is taking place, aimed at bringing as many Jews as possible, including the youngest children, to the synagogues on the upcoming holiday, in order to hear the Aseret Hadibrot [the Ten Commandments], as the [Lubavitch] Rebbe instructed," said Chabad emissary Rabbi Shlomi Peles who heads JRNU. "The campaign was carried out through posters, brochures and media productions," Peles said.
Zelensky's hometown, Kryvyi Rih, in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, was one of the cities to receive the milk shipments ahead of Shavuot. Rabbi Liron Edri, the city's rabbi, said that the war hit their city badly, something that had been reflected in the challenges of managing the community: "Our city was one of the most industrial cities in our region and was considered to be one of the largest steel producers worldwide," Edri said. "Unfortunately, since the local port was blocked due to the continued attacks, the city was not capable of marketing its products," Edri said.
He added that "more than a third of the city's businesses remained without an ability to operate. This urgent and important aid campaign by JNRU was helpful for the Jews of the city and left them in a reasonable financial situation, enabling them to live with dignity."
In addition, the war in Ukraine is still affecting the entire country, as well as the Jewish community. Earlier this week, Jewish soldiers from the Ukrainian army were circumcised, according to a statement by one of Ukraine’s Chief Rabbis, Moshe Azman. In an exciting event held in the Central Brotsky Synagogue in Kyiv by Azman, six Jews went through a circumcision procedure, among them were Jewish soldiers serving in the Ukrainian army.