Who we are, our stories, and our journey from past to future matters and it matters deeply! Our rich, traumatic, tragic history encompasses survival, incredible resilience, ingenuity, extraordinary creativity, spirituality, heroes and heroines and a will for life. So much of the Jewish story rests in Eastern Europe, the shtetl lands – the home of our ancestors. Critically there is one important yet often overlooked country, central to the history of the Jewish people and that is Belarus. Few know its secrets, even those who live within the confines of its borders! This landlocked country, neigbouring Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia and Ukraine, is a treasure trove of Jewish history and heritage. It is home today to vulnerable Jewish people in need of support, fragile from the ravages of years of Communist rule and the shadows of the Holocaust. Many who survived the Nazi killing machine in the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1944, never spoke of their experiences – they couldn’t, not because they couldn’t find the words, but because the communist regime would not recognise that there was a Holocaust on their land. In the Soviet Union the narrative was ‘we are all Soviet Citizens – we all suffered together’. So many of the Jews who survived the brutality took their suffering to the grave. For those still alive and yet to speak, it is a matter of urgency that we help them to share what they lived through and what they witnessed before it is too late.
Right now, the war in Ukraine, initiated by Russia on the 24th February of this year, has impacted innocent people across the whole of the region. The ripple effect of an invasion on this scale in the heart of Europe is beyond enormous, touching people’s lives across the globe. Before the war, we, as a charity, were focusing on building community groups around Jewish heritage. Through the establishment of youth heritage clubs, an initiative supported by the UK charity Jewish Child’s Day, we have been bringing people together to explore the rich Jewish history that permeates every village, town and forest. Our work has brought a new and fresh approach to community development in Belarus. This initiative has stimulated research, exploration, dialogue, collaboration and a sense of community and empowerment like never before.
In spite of the new socio-political landscape that we find ourselves in, our work is continuing. The vulnerable communities we are working with are still there, now more vulnerable than ever. The history and heritage is still there and still at risk of being lost, and there are stories that are yet to be told, captured and preserved. So, to that end we are continuing to do what we do in this new and challenging landscape. We draw strength from our ancestors, their resilience, tenacity and will to survive. We know that our work is of immense importance to those communities we are working with on the ground in Belarus and to the wider Jewish community around the world. We must endure and work ever harder to bring this history to the fore, because if we don’t – who will?
Our summer appeal is live and with you by our side, we can bring this rich Jewish history to life in our most ambitious project yet. Will you act now to help tell these, as yet, untold stories, educate future generations and shine a light on an incredible chapter in the history of the Jewish people? We know the next steps in the journey, but we cannot do this without you. Please take a moment to assist us with this key project so that together we can make change happen at a time when the world needs to unite and remember the lessons of the past more than ever.
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Thank you for your support!