Why I Care About Ukraine

Amy Randel is an event chair for Inside Jewish Ukraine in San Francisco on April 30. She is also a former JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps Fellow.

Ukraine. You've seen it in the headlines, but why does it matter to you as an American? Why is Ukraine particularly important to you as an American Jew? I remember the call I received when I learned I had been selected to spend a year as a JDC Jewish Service Corps fellow in Kiev, Ukraine. Besides Googled images of stunning gold capped churches and rolling countryside, this former Soviet nation was a black box to me. Like most Americans, I had very little exposure and knew very little about the former Soviet Union and this rich bed of Jewish cultural history. As far as I was concerned, Jewish life in Ukraine the old country, shtetyl life was a past tense reality.

Over the course of my year working in Ukraine I did have the opportunity to visit sites of significance in Jewish history, and was able to flesh out some of those shtetyl stereotypes. Standing at the sites I had only read about impacted me deeply. However what really changed me forever about my time in Ukraine was experiencing the present tense Jewish life.


Amy, far-left, as a JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps Fellow in Ukraine

As American Jews, we have a way of taking our peoplehood and identities for granted. However Jewish life there is not a given like in the states, but something the community is slowly carving a path for in an uphill battle, in a complicated nation. Nearly every aspect of Jewish life in Ukraine is a point of contention and active debate. 

Maybe you have a connection to Ukraine through family roots, maybe you grew up hearing stories of the old country and want to know more. I encourage you to come this Wednesday learn about the current situation in Ukraine, and what's happening on the ground. I invite you to begin to more deeply understand the questions of identity and peoplehood that your Jewish counterparts, and peers, are being forced to confront right now.

I encourage you to come and step outside of our comfortable American Jewish experience. Transport yourself for a few hours to a place where young Jews- people who are no different except the make of their passport- are asking themselves, what does it mean to build a future in a nation where things are tumultuous. Come engage with planning for a future where nothing about the future is guaranteed.  If nothing else you can get up to speed on current events, but I wager you walk away from this evening with a deeper appreciation, and more pointed, penetrating questions. Hope to see you Wednesday evening!


Join us for Inside Jewish Ukraine on April 30 in San Francisco!

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