By Loán Lake, Sr. Communications Manager
Moishe House Kyiv residents are pictured in their home in central Kyiv (top right) during briefing along with RSJ Community Manager Michael (bottom right), Moishe House CEO and Founder David Cygielman (bottom left), and Sr. Director of RSJ Programming Yana Tolmacheva (top left).
They demonstrate the best of what’s possible in young adult Jewish leadership. These were the words of Moishe House CEO and Founder David Cygielman at the end of Wednesday’s hour-long briefing with residents of Moishe House (MH) Kyiv – Andrey, Andy, and Daniil – and Kyiv-based Moishe House staff member, Russian-speaking Jewish (RSJ) community manager Michael, who have remained at the epicenter of the war in their hometown.
MH Kyiv is one of four Moishe House locations representing the RSJ community in Ukraine along with community members based in Dnipro, Kharkiv, and Odesa. The region is also home to seven Moishe House Without Walls (MHWOW) hosts, and two full-time MH staff members, one of whom previously evacuated the country. The Zoom briefing was attended by 150 participants at approximately 7pm local time in Kyiv, Ukraine (1pm ET in the United States) and was translated from Russian to English by Sr. Director of RSJ Programming Yana Tolmacheva, who is based in New York.
These brave community leaders shared how the war has affected them, their neighbors, and their city –Speaking primarily in their native tongue, they exhibited bravery, heroism, and at times, humor, as they outlined their numerous volunteer efforts to assist others in the three weeks since the conflict began. Though the days seem to run together, the residents mark time by tracking the number of days at war and find ways to safely gather with their peers to offer meals, camaraderie, Shabbat dinners and other limited programming to maintain a sense of community. They also maintain constant contact with Michael and have formed a web of support on the ground that mirrors the unified sense of community that has permeated their country.
Despite the upheaval, the 8pm curfew, and the uncertainty that remains, MH Kyiv residents find solace in the support they have received from Moishe House and its donors and channel their energy to provide much-needed supplies, groceries, and meals to those without a safe place to stay. “In these kinds of times, in times of war, in times of crisis, you often think what is something that we lack or what is really, truly important in our lives; and I can really understand the point of life right now. It’s to hug each other, it’s to be able to have peaceful and calm sleep, it’s to drink a delicious cup of coffee, it’s to be under clear skies that are above you. And we knew that before, but we really feel that now—that this is the point of life,” Daniil said.
This is what leadership looks like – stepping up to serve the community in the face of unimaginable adversity. These residents, and their colleagues who have left Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and Dnipro continue to assist with evacuation efforts and relief efforts, embody the Moishe House mission and the spirit of tikkun olam as they tap into all that they have learned as Moishe House community builders to confidently provide a glimmer of hope for others.