Betsy Gidwitx Reports


20.  Adopt-A-Bubbe/Adopt-A-Zayde is an independent assistance program created by Dr. Judith Patkin, the Executive Director of Action for Post-Soviet Jewry in Waltham, MA. The Dnipropetrovsk operation supports elderly Jews in Dnipropetrovsk itself and in 15 additional cities or large towns and numerous smaller towns in eastern, central, and southern Ukraine.[50]   However, the total number of towns served has declined as Jewish populations in these villages have diminished to the point where service calls are economically prohibitive.   In fact, said AAB directors Tanya and Yan Sidelkovsky, a few distant towns are rarely visited at all; instead, AAB transfers funds through PrivatBank to local coordinators who care for needy people in their regions.[51]  At any given time, said the Sidelkovskys, about 1,000 individuals are on their client list, a number that has been reduced in recent years due to budgetary constraints.  Some clients are rotated in and out of the AAB census periodically in order to serve more people.


Elderly clients who die are replaced by relatively younger pensioners; the younger pensioners may have greater needs because they do not receive the government bonuses and other government benefits (such as discounts on use of utilities) given to veterans of World War II.  The program also supports some working-age Jews who are chronically ill or handicapped, as well as some Jewish families with young children in which the parents are unemployed.


Yan and Tanya Sidelkovsky manage the Adopt-a-Bubbe program in the Dnipropetrovsk area.  Yan also is the local coordinator for the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston kehilla or sister-city program in the city.  (See page 15.)


Photo: the writer.



Coordinators in each population center often are retired hesed personnel, who know local seniors and their needs.  Coordinators may be paid a small stipend, but do not receive conventional salaries. 


The major form of AAB service is the distribution of general food parcels to a long list of needy Jews.  The organization also provides food, clothing, and medicine tailored to the specific requirements of particular clients, such as food and medications for diabetics.  Further, it assists patients in hospitals who usually must bring their own linens and medicines, as well as food, for their hospitalization.  AAB provides medicines and medical supplies (such as catheters, syringes, and surgical instruments) to several hospitals, both as general assistance and as an incentive for hospitals to admit and treat AAB clients who require hospitalization.


Due to runaway inflation, most pensions now are worth only about $40 monthly, enough to pay for utilities, but leaving very little for food and medicine.  AAB receives medications from international supporters, which it distributes to clients according to recommendations of local physicians.


A signature social program of Adopt-a-Bubbe is the warm home day centers, which are held in the apartments of participants.  Adopt-a-Bubbe currently operates two warm homes in Dnipropetrovsk (one on each side of the Dnipr River) and 10 others in its broader service region.  Ten to 12 seniors attend each warm home every month, with some people rotating in or out each session so that more individuals are able to participate.  With financial assistance from AAB, the hostess and other participants purchase food for a full hot meal; both the hostess and some guests prepare the dishes so that the hostess is not overwhelmed and more people feel valued.   Sometimes a few individuals may bring wine or other treats on their own.   In addition to consuming a hot, nutritious meal, participants celebrate birthdays and holidays, sing, dance, participate in discussions on Judaism and Jewish history, and take part in other activities.  The opportunities for socializing and for intellectual exercise are just as important as the hot meal, said Mr. Sidelkovsky.[52] Mr. Sidelkovsky acknowledged that the Joint Distribution Committee had initiated the warm home program and then abandoned it as a consequence of budgetary pressures, re-started it with only limited food service, then abandoned it again.


Asked about contact with Jewish internally displaced people from the areas now under separatist control, the Sidelkovskys said that AAB transported some of the elderly IDP's who were staying at Beit Baruch (see below) to special warm home seders organized just for them on the fourth or fifth night of Pesach.  It was important, they said, that these displaced individuals have an opportunity to leave Beit Baruch and enjoy a Pesach meal in a real home, not an institution.  Additionally, the Sidelkovskys continued, they assisted Jewish IDP's who went to Mariupol (because the IDP's have relatives in that city).  One of their principal forms of help to these IDP's was the purchase of cell phones for them.



21.  The Beit Baruch Assisted Living Facility for elderly Jews opened in 2002, the first of only two dedicated residences for Jewish seniors in all of the post-Soviet states. [53]   Sponsored by the Chabad Philanthropic Fund of the Dnipropetrovsk Jewish Community (Благотворительный фонд Днепропетровского еврейского общины), Beit Baruch provides accommodations in single or double rooms with private bathrooms, meals, medical care, and social activities.  The building is located in a relatively quiet outlying area on the site of a former preschool.  The preschool was razed to the ground and then replaced by a clean, modern residential facility.


Although the official capacity of Beit Baruch is 94, American geriatric specialists recommend that the total number of residents not exceed 75 to 80.[54]  The current census is only 42 conventional patients, said director Mila Ruvinskaya, the low number reflecting both Chabad community concerns about financial support of additional patients and the need of an increasing number of residents with dementia for single rooms.[55]    The facility maintains a small waiting list, Ms. Ruvinskaya stated; some of these individuals will be admitted when current patients leave Beit Baruch[56] or die. The waiting list, acknowledged Ms. Ruvinskaya, includes several people with serious psychological issues.  Beit Baruch management believes that it is incapable of caring for such seniors and avoids admitting them.


Mila Ruvinskaya, seen here at the entrance to the facility, is respected for her manage-ment skills and commitment to patients at Beit Baruch.


Photo: the writer.



The condition of current residents continues to deteriorate, Ms. Ruvinskaya stated.  More and more of them are лежающие (bedridden), and Beit Baruch now is more of a hospice than an assisted living facility.  The average cost of maintaining someone at Beit Baruch, responded Ms. Ruvinskaya to a question, is about $400 monthly.  Only two of the 42 residents pay the full fee, she said; in each of these cases, the fee is paid by adult children who live in the United States.  Other patients pay a small portion of their pensions.


In addition to accommodating Jewish elderly who require assistance with daily life tasks, Beit Baruch has become a temporary residence for displaced Jews from Crimea and from the eastern regions of Ukraine now controlled by separatists.  Although the numbers were far greater at the peak of the crisis, said Ms. Ruvinskaya, 17 people remain from Donetsk and Luhansk, along with a single mother and her three children from Crimea.  Earlier, Beit Baruch hosted two families of five people each; one of these families has since emigrated to Israel and the other left for Odesa.  Another family has been at Beit Baruch for nine months and shows no signs of departing.  In general, continued Ms. Ruvinskaya, most of the adults who remain have poor work skills and will find it difficult to become self-supporting anywhere.  However, she noted, several of them are helping around Beit Baruch, washing dishes or doing comparable work.  The local Chabad community pays the cost of maintaining these individuals at Beit Baruch.


Some of the more mobile residents eat lunch in the dining room at Beit Baruch.


Photo: the writer.


Beit Baruch also hosts local Jews who are recovering from hip replacement surgery.  Beit Baruch professional staff provides the necessary therapeutic assistance and such residents benefit from cooked meals and handicapped-accessible premises.  Four people currently are in the recuperation program, which was developed by orthopedic specialists from the Dnipropetrovsk sister-city of Boston.



22.  The Dnipropetrovsk Jewish Medical Center opened in February 2012 in ground floor premises at the Beit Baruch Assisted Living Facility.  Although housed in its own wing of Beit Baruch, it is accessible from inside the residence without going outdoors.  It also has its own separate outside entrance so that non-resident clients and staff may enter and leave without disturbing Beit Baruch.  JMC fulfills a longtime goal of the Dnipropetrovsk Chabad leadership to provide high-quality medical services in a manner that ensures the patient's dignity to the Jewish population at low cost.  The clinic also is open to non-Jews and does not discriminate in the provision of care.  Small fees are paid for all services.


In the absence of JMC director Dr. Elena Strakh who was attending a medical conference in Kyiv, the writer spoke with Dr. Yana Vladimirovna, a JMC cardiologist. Dr. Vladimirovna stated that at least two physicians and one nurse are present at all times every day.  A number of specialists - she mentioned a urologist, gynecologist, endocrinologist, neurologist, and dermatologist - have office hours between one and three days each week.  The clinic is open five days each week, Sunday through Thursday.  Between 15 and 20 people, mainly elderly, visit the clinic every day, she said; the number really depends on the specialists who are onsite on a given day. 


Reflecting a service contract with the hesed, about 70 percent of all adult patients are referred by the hesed, said. Dr. Vladimirovna.  The remainder are from Beit Baruch itself and from the general population.  The clinic also sees about 100 children from the Jewish day school and Beit Tsindlicht; however, Dr. Vladimirovna stated, the JMC staff pediatricians are actually at JMC only a few days each week and only in the hours after school.

[50] The program also operates in several other regions of the former Soviet states. However, this report deals only with work that is directed from its Dnipropetrovsk office. In addition to assisting Jews, Adopt-A-Bubbe also reaches out to elderly Righteous Gentiles, i.e., those from families who helped Jews during the Holocaust.

[51] The principal share holders in PrivatBank are Ihor Kolomoisky and Hennadiy Boholubov, well-known Dnipropetrovsk Jewish oligarchs.  They support a number of Jewish causes.

[52] Mr. Sidelkovsky often leads these discussions. He has become educated in Jewish tradition and history through online courses and individual tutoring.

[53] The other is in Kyiv. See page 23. Beit Baruch is named in memory of the father of Hennady Boholubov, a local oligarch and major donor to the Chabad community in Dnipropetrovsk.

[54] Boston-area physicians, led by Dr. Lewis Lifsitz of Harvard Medical School and Hebrew Senior Life of Boston, visit Dnipropetrovsk regularly.

[55]  A portion of the facility had been closed off from the main section, thus saving heat and other costs.  Later, it was reopened to accommodate Jews displaced from areas of Ukraine by Russian-supported separatists.

[56] Approximately 30 people left Beit Baruch during the past year, almost all of them joining adult children who had emigrated to Israel.

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