Belarus was once a country that was the heartbeat of Jewish life. It was home to thousands of Jews and hundreds of years of shtetl life. But it has a history of suffering, oppression and torment. Pogroms, Holocaust and purges under Communism.
From fervent Yeshiva Torah study to enlightenment to Jewish Socialism and Zionism, it is by way of some small miracle that any Jewish life remains in Belarus today. But it does. In Polotsk in the north of the country, the members of the Polotsk, Jewish Cultural Educational Foundation go to great lengths to celebrate Pesach each year. With the resources sent on The Together Plan’s Humanitarian Aid lorries – they have the Judaica that they need – Seder plates, candlesticks, a wine Becher. With these ritual items and the space that The Together Plan helps them to run, they are able to be free, no longer slaves to an oppressive system that silences them. They can choose to run their seder together in a way that is meaningful to them.
Matzah is not available in Belarus, so the Orthodox Union in Minsk bring the Matzah into the country from Ukraine, but this is no easy process. The Together Plan helps to bring the Matzah across the border in partnership with another non-Jewish Charity in Belarus. We assist in the distribution of the Matzah to Jewish communities across the country and to the homes of ghetto survivors.
The matzah made safe passage through the Belarus customs this week and was unloaded at our warehouse in Minsk where it is now being prepared for distribution. This is how we delivered the matzah coming in from Ukraine last year when COVID first appeared in Belarus – click to watch the video.
Pesach is all about freedom and we believe that our work as a charity encourages people in Belarus to strive for that freedom to express their Judaism in whatever way they choose. Together miracles can happen.