For 25 years, Hillel in Central Asia and Southeastern Europe (CASE) has played a prominent role in the lives of Jewish students and young adults in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Crimea, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
This February, just three days before the war in Ukraine began, city and country directors from Hillel CASE gathered in Odessa for their bi-annual staff gathering. Despite world-altering challenges since their last meeting, including being displaced by the war, the staff found strength in themselves and reunited again last weekend in Jerusalem to plan strategically for the year ahead and experience the joy of each other’s presence.
For the upcoming year, staff will focus on providing both in-person and online opportunities for Jewish students and young adults to participate in Hillel CASE programs and activities, regardless of where they are. They will continue to provide mental health and wellness services to students impacted by the war in Ukraine. Since the war began, Hillel CASE has also expanded to support student-led volunteer efforts, including food deliveries for large families, consulting on evacuation and repatriation, and coordinating evacuation buses.
Last Sunday, more than 130 alumni and current students of all Hillel CASE cities and countries convened at the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv for an incredible evening of reunions and activities. Participants were delighted to attend a program called “Show Reels” which featured interactive games, video messages from students who cannot currently leave Ukraine, and two Hillel music videos, including an Atlantis video and a choreographed Hillel anthem. Members of Donestk Hillel, a Hillel that closed after the Russian invasion in 2014, were also in attendance.
On Monday morning, Hillel International Board of Governors Chair Matthew Bronfman joined the group to learn directly from Hillel CASE directors. Directors shared how their teams have provided mental health support to students, served the elderly, volunteered during rocket attacks in Odessa, distributed thousands of Passover food packages, transitioned Kharkiv operations to Lviv, and supported the huge flow of refugees at Hillel Moldova.
This gathering was made possible in large part by the global Hillel community that provided more than $1 million to support Jewish students, Hillel staff, and their families affected by the war in Ukraine through the Emergency Relief Fund.
View the photo gallery from the event here.