Betsy Gidwitx Reports


Most JMC physicians, continued Dr. Vladimirova, hold primary positions in other institutions and work at JMC only part-time, on their days off or after normal work hours.  Their connections with other institutions actually are helpful in arranging comprehensive care when needed.


Dr. Vladimirova spoke with pride of two features of the JMC.  One outstanding component is its onsite diagnostic laboratory, which is well-equipped and analyzes medical tests without corruption.[57]  Another asset is a new ultrasound device, which has been a key factor in elevating the status of the JMC to that of a regional cardiology diagnostic center.



Dr. Yana Vladimirovna, a cardiologist, considers the Jewish Medical Center General Electric ultrasound equipment to be "Rolls Royce" in quality.  The equipment can be used for both cardiology and abdominal diagnoses.  Dr. Vladimirovna expressed profound gratitude to the Jewish community of Boston for its purchase and shipment.


Photo: the writer.



Few of the achievements of the Jewish Medical Center would have been possible without the assistance of the Boston Jewish community, stated Dr, Vladimirovna.  Physicians and other medical professionals in Boston have provided many hours of training in various aspects of medical care.  Further, Boston-area Jewish philanthropists have enabled the JMC to acquire advanced medical equipment and supplies.[58]


Notwithstanding the success of the JMC, its future hinges upon acquisition of suitable premises closer to the center of Dnipropetrovsk.  At least one hour of commuter time is required to reach the current facility by bus or trolley from the center of the city; such a journey is very uncomfortable for most people, including hesed clients and professional staff, and may even be dangerous for the very ill.  Various structures have been considered for a downtown location, including the basement of the Menorah Center, but all have been found to be unsuitable in some way, such as being too small for a desired expansion of services or too costly for necessary renovation.  Beit Baruch professional staff and residents are distressed by the impending move of the clinic, but seem to regard it as inevitable.



23.    Ahavat Israel was established in 2011 with a mission of bringing Jewish life to Jewish deaf and non-speaking individuals in Dnipropetrovsk.  Having been approached by several individuals in this population group, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki authorized establishment of such organization and asked Rimma Margolina, manager of the women's mikveh, to supervise it on a volunteer basis.


Funding for this group always has been precarious.  Ms. Margolina said that they receive no regular allocation from the Chabad Philanthropic Fund of the Dnipropetrovsk Jewish Community (Благотворительный фонд Днепро-петровского еврейского общины).  The Philanthropic Fund provides physical premises for their occasional activities, but no money for programming.  A few donors contribute small sums.  As a consequence of its paltry budget, only about 15 local Jews participate in Ahavat Israel programs, although about 40 have expressed interest in such programs (of about 70 deaf and non-speaking Jews believed to reside in the city).


Rimma Margolina, the "mikveh lady" in Dnipropetrovsk, also manages Ahavat Israel, a program for hearing-impaired Jews.  She expresses great frustration about being asked to direct the program without financial resources.  She receives no compen-sation for her work with this group and very little funding for pro-gram expenses.


Photo: the writer.


Ms. Margolina believes that Ahavat Israel should offer two activities every month, one of which would involve serious Jewish education and the other would be more social, focusing on celebrations of seasonal Jewish holidays.  About $300 would be required each month to operate such a program, she stated.  With available resources, Ahavat Israel has managed to hold a Purim celebration (with no megilla reading because they could not afford to hire a sign-language translator for the megilla reader), a "semi-seder" (with no translator), and a Lag B'Omer observance.  In one gathering, they simply watched some videos from the Chabad library.  They always manage to have some food, Ms. Margolina acknowledged; without food, no one would come.


A very good sign-language translator lives in Dnipropetrovsk, stated Ms. Margolina, but her volunteer time is limited.  Ahavat Israel cannot afford to pay her regular fee of $25 per session.


In response to a question, Ms. Margolina said that some deaf adults have deaf children and others have normally-hearing children.  Separate activities should be held for children, she said, but Ahavat Israel has no funds for this purpose.


At another meeting, Ms. Margolina stated that all hearing-impaired Jews in the city know each other because they attended one of two special public schools for individuals with this disability.  Following graduation from these schools, they are steered into programs that train hearing-impaired men for factory jobs and hearing-impaired women for work as seamstresses.  These positions offer low remuneration, thus leaving many deaf people in poverty.



24.  The Jewish Women's Microenterprise Loan Fund, operating with support from Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston (the Jewish federation in Boston), aims to assist Jewish women in generating and/or expanding small businesses in Dnipropetrovsk.  All loans are processed through PrivatBank, a large bank controlled by two Dnipropetrovsk Jewish oligarchs, Hennady Boholubov and Ihor Kolomoisky.


A committee of PrivatBank officials and local Jewish community representatives evaluates loan applications.  The average loan in recent years has been $3,500, the maximum was $5,000.  In addition to the application itself, the loan committee also considers personal circumstances of the applicant, such as family income and number of dependents.  More than 80 loans have been extended since inception of the project and almost all have been paid in full or are on schedule with repayment, said director Natalia Rier.


Natalia Rier has directed the Jewish Women's Microenterprise Fund since its inception.  She speaks with many women during the course of her work and is attuned to their issues during the current crisis.


Photo: the writer.


However, said Ms. Rier, current economic conditions have led to a significant drop in applications for loans.  People simply are afraid to take risks.  The situation is a nightmare (кошмар), she stated.  One of the major issues, Ms. Rier continued, is a steep increase in taxes as the Ukrainian government seeks to raise revenue.  Therefore, little incentive exists to increase one's income because the government takes "everything" that someone earns.


The loan fund is encouraging women to upgrade their computer skills through ORT classes, said Ms. Rier, some working with Keshernet and others finding different ways of enrolling in ORT classes.[59] At the very least, women are advised to complete a basic ORT computer literacy course, and those who are more ambitious are urged to master Excel, complete a course in computer graphics and design, or become programmers.  Ms. Rier added that women also can earn useful ORT, Microsoft, or Hewlett-Packard certificates.


In a separate discussion, Vyecheslav "Zelig" Brez, Executive Director of the Chabad Philanthropic Fund, stated that three loans had been approved within the last week (mid-April) after a long period of inactivity.  In each case, the women who received the loans will use some or all of the funds for IT training.  Dnipropetrovsk is developing as an IT center in Ukraine, he continued, and opportunities exist for people who are competent in this area.[60]



Synagogue-Administered Activity



25.  Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki, a native of Kfar Chabad in Israel, is Chief Rabbi of Dnipropetrovsk and Dnipropetrovsk oblast.  He was sent to the city, an important site in Chabad history, by Chabad Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson 25 years ago and today is considered by many observers to be the most capable large-city rabbi in all of the post-Soviet states.  He has built a complex communal infrastructure, including both social welfare and educational institutions, as well as the grand Menorah Center.  He enjoys excellent relations with international Jewish organizations, such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and ORT; he also encourages the unique and fruitful sister-city relationship between the Jewish communities of Dnipropetrovsk and Boston.  In addition to connections with Jewish organ-izations, Rabbi Kaminezki is respected by local, oblast, and national government officials as well as diplomats and other foreigners who perceive him as a keen observer of local and national developments in Ukraine.[61]



Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki was born in Israel and completed rabbinic training in the United States.  His advice and counsel is widely sought by local Jews, other rabbis, businessmen, and government officials.


Photo: the writer.


Almost all of the local Jewish oligarchs who have contributed generously to the success of the Chabad-led Jewish community over the years continue to provide financial support, stated Rabbi Kaminezki.  However, many of them have been affected by the current economic crisis and some have reduced their contributions accordingly.[62]  In addition to the general economic condition in the country, many wealthy local Jews have dedicated large amounts of their own funds to Ukrainian national defense, care for wounded soldiers, and/or care of internally displaced people from the Donetsk and Luhansk areas and from Crimea.  With reduced funding flowing into the Jewish community, various programs and projects also have been reduced or postponed.  Rabbi Kaminezki mentioned further development of the Jewish Medical Center and the International Jewish Women's Seminary as examples of projects that have been affected by the financial crisis.

[57]  It is commonplace within Ukrainian/Russian medical laboratories to present exaggerated statements of a patient's medical conditions so as to influence physicians to prescribe excessive medication.  Both physicians and laboratory personnel receive kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies.

[58] Working though the hesed, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee provides assistance to the JMC  in the form of both over-the-counter and some prescription medicines.

[59]  See pages 8-9.

[60]  See page 12 for other topics discussed in an interview with Mr. Brez.

[61] However, Rabbi Kaminezki is alleged by some as intolerant of non-Orthodox Judaism, having blocked the development of a Progressive/Reform Jewish presence in the city.

[62]  See the interview with Zelig Brez, below, for more information on the financial outlook of the Chabad community.


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