Jews in the Former Soviet Union Receive Seder Support, Special Attention to Ukraine Jewry


moetzes-ukraineFor Jews living in the former Soviet Union and other communist countries during the 1950s, observing Pesach, with kosher matzah and wine, was virtually impossible. Many of them did try, with the limited resources available to them, yet still were unable to observe the yom tov properly. During that era, there were numerous instances in which well-intentioned, but spiritually deprived, Jews actually baked matzah with chometz ingredients.

When Agudath Israel of America, learned of their predicament, they recognized the need of the thousands of Yidden stuck in the communist countries of the former Soviet Union. The organization mobilized volunteers who worked tirelessly to clandestinely send them matzah and other basic Pesach necessities, using various humanitarian channels and Agudath Israel contacts in Switzerland.

The response was overwhelmingly positive. This gesture strengthened and gave hope to the Jews trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Thus began Agudath Israel’s Overseas Passover Campaign, which brings the fundamental ingredients of a kosher Pesach to needy Jews around the world.

Over the years, as more and more Jews wished to observe the yom tov, demand for the Pesach products grew. Today the Overseas Passover Campaign continues to fill a vital need. For Agudath Israel the Overseas Passover Campaign is a sacred mission,” explains Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, Agudath Israel of America. According to Campaign Chairman Avrohom Schonberger, “There are many local organizations here in the United States which provide aniyei ircha with matzah and Passover necessities, but we take care of those who seem to have been forgotten. The Overseas Passover Campaign ensures that all Yidden have the opportunity to properly observe Pesach.”

Rabbi Gertzulin explains that the Overseas Passover Campaign has made a real difference in the lives of many Jews living abroad. “Over the years, our campaign has distributed millions of dollars of Matzah, grape juice, and other Pesach products to tens of thousands of impoverished Jews who, even today, live in the former Soviet Union and in other countries once behind the Iron Curtain. The fall of communism brought thousands of Jews into the open, and reignited their hearts to observance of Yiddishkeit.”

Agudath Israel is grateful to work with some wonderful partners, organizations in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and other countries, which distribute the supplies for Agudath Israel. “These organizations act as our on-the scene shluchim; together we are able to help Jews keep Pesach,” says Rabbi Gertzulin. This year, the Agudah representative explained, “we feel a special responsibility to the Jewish Community in Ukraine under the leadership of Chief Rabbi Yakov Bleich. The economy in Ukraine is in virtual collapse and the tenuous political situation requires added security which is a heavy burden to many communities already in financial difficulties. It is incumbent upon every caring member of Klal Yisroel to come to their aid.”

Throughout the decades, Jews all over the world without the means to make the yom tov have struggled to keep a kosher Pesach. Agudath Israel was with these Yidden when it was illegal to be Jewish in Soviet Russia; they were with them when open observance was possible but still required effort, and they are with them now when political upheaval adds another layer of challenge to preparing for Pesach. The mesiras nefesh continues, and so does Agudath Israel’s open hand, making the mitzvah of Pesach possible to thousands of Jews.

{Gavriel Newscenter}


  1. i aint no chabadnik but come on guys i dont think someone can write an article about pesach behind the iron curtain without mentioning the fact that Chabad had underground mikvaos chedarim and yes baked matzah and Chabad wasnt with the people of russia metephoricaaly speaking They were actually there with the and are the only reason that there is yiideshkeit in the ussr now so come on please stop the politically motivated stunts and help jews just for the sake of helping them…