Following the success of last year’s Paint Over Prejudice Berlin trip, fourteen of FZY’s Hadracha Aleph members (Year 12s) embarked on a 4-day trip to Ukraine, with the aim of establishing connections between ourselves and various Diaspora Jewish communities in Ukraine. We toured incredible cities including Kyiv and Vinnytsia, and explored fascinating Jewish communities in Shargorod and Zhmerinka. Every place we visited was full of unbelievable buildings, communities and history; the weather was great too.
Following months of fundraising to help contribute to the rebuilding of a synagogue in Shargorod, we were finally able to make a tangible difference to the building. Built originally in 1589 and home to thousands of Jews, it was a synagogue rich in culture and history. It was shut down during the Soviet occupation in the 20th century to be turned into a wine factory, and only recently was permission granted to help renovate the building back into a synagogue for the Jewish families of the village to use. We were also fortunate enough to be given an informative tour of the beautiful village by a few of the local school’s students, who spoke phenomenal English for their age.
In conversation with the members of Zhmerinka’s elderly Jewish community we discovered interesting similarities between them and us, whilst also hearing how this different Diaspora community faces challenges very different to our own. Thanks to the help of our wonderful tour guide and translator Karoline, an English student at Vinnytsia University, we were able to bond with this community in a way none of us thought possible, discussing Zionism, anti-Semitism, beliefs and values. Before embarking on our visits, we had discussed the concepts of peoplehood and community relating to Diaspora Jewry. This really helped to frame the trip for us in a way that enabled us to make the most out of our experiences and create long-lasting connections with people of diverse ages, backgrounds, and communities.
Many thanks to Joe, Jessie, Dagan, JAFI and the UJIA; we had an incredible time in Ukraine and look forward to partaking in many more FZY trips like this in the future.