Betsy Gidwitx Reports



However, only four young women actually enrolled in the 2011-2012 course.  According to Rabbi Weber, the Dnipropetrovsk seminary fell victim to competition from new and/or upgraded programs based in Brooklyn, Vienna, and Moscow that cater to the same Chabad demographic group. The other programs offer a full year of academic credit ; additionally, the Moscow program is free of charge and provides a stipend, whereas the Dnipropetrovsk program cost $7,500 to participants.  The accreditation of Beit Chana by Touro College, which probably will occur in 2013,[30] should equalize the academic strength of the different programs.  In the interim, i.e., for the 2012-1013 academic year, seminary girls at Beit Chana will travel to Moscow twice during their Dnipropetrovsk sojourns for intensive course work leading to Moscow-based Touro academic credit (that will be recognized at other Touro campuses).  In a July conversation, Rabbi Stambler said that 16 girls were expected to participate in the 2012-2013 Dnipropetrovsk seminary under these interim arrangements.[31]


9.  A Special Needs Educational Resource Center, funded by Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, enrolls approximately 50 special needs Jewish children, adolescents, and young adults.  It operates in a suite of rooms at the Beit Chana classroom building and uses an adjacent outdoor play area designed especially for them.   Different groups of children and adolescents, classified according to age and nature of disability, attend the Center on different days.  Programs for disabled young adults are more limited.   A number of support activities are available to parents of these individuals.


Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki, the Chief Rabbi of Dnipropetrovsk, said that Chabad is committed to serving this population group.  It is almost certain, he declared, that the program will move with Beit Chana to the centrally located new building following its renovation.



10.  The most comprehensive Holocaust research center in Ukraine and perhaps in all of the post-Soviet states is Tkumah, the Dnipropetrovsk-based Ukrainian Holocaust Research, Education, and Memorial Center.  Directed by Dr. Igor Schupak, Tkumah

is temporarily housed at the local hesed (welfare center sponsored by the Joint Distribution Committee), Hesed Menachem, in the center of Dnipropetrovsk. Dr. Schupak and his colleagues are eagerly awaiting the day when they are able to move into the Menorah Center, a facility that will accommodate their research needs, library, classrooms, and the Museum of Jewish History and Culture in Ukraine.[32]  Museum premises will include a large hall of multimedia displays, a memorial space, and a center designed specifically for children and families.


Dr. Igor Schupak, a native of nearby Zaporizhya, is a recognized authority on Ukrainian Jewish history, particularly the Holocaust in Ukraine.  He has written history textbooks for Ukrainian schools and is the author of more than 100 scientific papers.  Dr. Schupak earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Toronto.


Photo:  Retrieved September 10, 2012.


Overall, the objectives of Tkumah are to: (1) conduct scholarly research about the Holocaust through interviews of survivors, examination of pertinent documents, and expeditions to relevant sites; (2) educate contemporary Ukrainians about the Holocaust through publications, development of school curricula, teacher training, and seminars and conferences; (3) encourage dialogue between Jews and other Ukrainian ethnic groups through seminars and conferences for youth, adults, and historians; and (4) arrange museum displays and related programming about the Holocaust.


The writer was unable to speak with Dr. Schupak during her May trip to Dnipropetrovsk.  However, it was known that a major portion of his work during that period concerned development of the museum displays to be installed in the Menorah Center.  In an earlier interview, he emphasized a vision encompassing all of Ukrainian Jewish history, that is, of Jewish life and civilization before the Soviet Union and World War II, the destruction during the Soviet period and the Holocaust, and the rebirth of Jewish life after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Only in Dnipropetrovsk, which Dr. Schupak considers the strongest Jewish community in the post-Soviet states, could such a museum be developed.  Among all the rabbis in the region, Dr. Schupak continued, only Rabbi Kaminezki could bring together the financial support for this project.






11.  Hesed Menachem, the JDC-operated welfare center, occupies a large building originally constructed as preschool.  Well-located in the center of the city, the hesed nonetheless is moving into smaller premises at the Menorah Center.  The existing hesed building, said JDC Dnipropetrovsk Director Esther Katz, is in deteriorating condition and cannot be renovated to accommodate hesed needs.  Additionally, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki believes that elderly Jews should be welcomed into a Jewish community and cultural center along with all other Jews.


Ms. Katz stated that the hesed currently (May 2012) serves 7,500 elderly clients in Dnipropetrovsk and the surrounding region.  Of these, 4,500 individuals comprise a “core” welfare group who receive comprehensive services from the hesed, including regular food parcels and home care.  Another 3,000 receive supermarket and pharmacy discount cards, optical and other medical care as needed, and are invited to certain social events, such as holiday celebrations, at the hesed.  Additionally, the hesed continues to operate a senior adult day care center serving groups of elderly Jews, about 30 each day, who come to the hesed twice each month for social and cultural activities, breakfast, and a hot lunch.  Medical consultations, which previously were a feature of hesed services, now are available much less frequently.


The hesed also provides modest services to several hundred at-risk Jewish children and their families.  It operates a limited number of social and cultural programs for special needs children and young adults.[33]


12. The Beit Baruch Assisted Living Facility for elderly Jews opened in 2002, the first of only two dedicated housing facilities for Jewish seniors in all of the post-Soviet states.[34]  Beit Baruch provides accommodations, meals, medical care, and various social activities to its residents.  Some reside in single rooms, others in doubles with a roommate.  Each room has its own private bathroom.   The facility is located in a relatively quiet outlying district of Dnipropetrovsk on the site of a former preschool.  The original building was completely razed and then replaced by a clean modern structure. 



The Beit Baruch Assisted Living Center is one of two dedicated Jewish elder care homes in all of the post-Soviet states.


Photo: Chabad of Dnipropetrovsk.



Although the official capacity of Beit Baruch is 94, American geriatric specialists recommend that the total number of residents not exceed 75 to 80.  The census at the time of the writer’s visit was only 51 individuals, all of whom were in their 80’s and 90’s.  Beit Baruch also accommodates individuals on therapeutic stays of two to two and one-half months as they recover from hip replacement surgery; however, only four such individuals had been in Beit Baruch during the last 12 months, said Beit Baruch management.  The current relatively low number of both short- and long-term residents reflects economic pressure deriving from the need for extensive subsidy of the home and from the increasing number of patients with dementia, each of whom requires an individual room without a roommate.[35]




A Beit Baruch resident traverses the entrance hall with the aid of a caregiver en route to the dining hall.



Photo: ЕВРЕЇ ДНІПРОПЕТРОВЩИНИ: історіа та сучасністью.  (Дніпропетровськ: Арт-Прес, 2011), 66.



Residents pay 40 to 60 percent of their pensions for accommodation at Beit Baruch, an amount that may cover as little as 10 percent or as much as 40 percent of the real cost ($5,000 annually) of their care at the facility.[36]  Subsidies to fill the funding gap are provided by the Chabad Philanthropic Fund of Dnipropetrovsk and by Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, the Jewish federation in Boston.  (The Joint Distribution Committee provides no support to Beit Baruch.)


By far the most significant change in Beit Baruch since the writer’s most recent previous visit in 2011 was the departure of Alexandra Kizhner, the longtime manager, who returned to Israel – and her replacement by Mila Ruvinskaya.  Ms. Ruvinskaya’s most recent past employment had been as a director of patronage (home healthcare) services for the hesed.  In that capacity, she usually was responsible for the care of 160 homebound seniors and the 30 workers who attended to them.



Mila Ruvinskaya, right, is the new manager of Beit Baruch.



Photo: the writer.



[30]  See page 20.

[31]  Whereas many Chabad young women in Israel pursue bachelor’s degrees in women’s religious colleges that follow a three-year curriculum common in Israeli post-secondary educational institutions, the norm in North America and many other areas is for Chabad young women to forgo formal academic degrees in favor of two years of post-high school study followed by marriage and child-rearing.  Increasingly, however, American Chabad families are recognizing the advantages of a bachelor’s degree for their daughters and are seeking seminaries that provide significant credit toward a formal degree.

[32]   See page 8.

[33]  See pages 41-42 for an interview with Esther Katz. 

The Special Needs Educational Resource Center at Beit Chana (pages 22-23) emphasizes education, whereas the hesed emphasizes social and cultural programs.  Some special-needs young people participate in both programs.

[34]  The second such facility is located in Kyiv.  See page 84.

[35]  The largest number of individuals ever to have resided in Beit Baruch concurrently was 72.

[36] The wealthiest people at Beit Baruch are World War II combat veterans who receive generous monthly pension bonuses for their wartime service.  With the passage of time, the number of such individuals is diminishing.


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