In Kyiv at war, the house of Moses turned into a refuge

Jewish Chicago: The JUF Magazine on JTA – There are Maisons de Moïse in about thirty countries, which allow three to five young Jewish adults to live together and build a community around activities. But what happens in wartime?

Daniil Belyi, resident of the House of Moses in Kyiv, Ukraine, has a vague idea of ​​the answer. He had been living there for less than a year when war broke out, trying to find his place in the community according to the events and activities on the program.

When war was declared, Belyi and the other residents, Andrey and Andy, had to face a completely different reality. Where they held events to sustain and strengthen their community, they set about building and stocking grocery shelves for charity. And where they held Shabbat dinners, they began welcoming displaced people in search of safe haven.

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“We understood that we could not be satisfied with the events, that we had to help our country,” Belyi said.

“When you realize that you have to do it yourself, you don’t tell yourself ‘it’s hard’ or ‘it’s easy’. We help, that’s all. The people need us. We don’t waste time thinking about how to do it. We do, period.

The Moses House of Kyiv is one of 19 Moses Houses and other two-person pods found in the former Soviet Union.

Like the house housing Belyi and his roommates, Moses’ Ukrainian homes responded quickly to the Russian invasion as of late February.

When the house in Kharkiv had to close because of the fighting, a capsule opened in Chernivtsi. And in the early months of the war, the Maisons de Moïse adapted to make themselves useful while continuing to encourage friendship while respecting Jewish values.

In Kyiv – whose home is funded by the Jewish United Fund of Chicago – residents are striving to help the elderly, single mothers and the unemployed with medicines, food, hygiene items or drugs. They also regularly provide food to charity kitchens that provide a thousand meals a day to people in air shelters, hospitalized patients or the elderly who are left at home.

Finding ways to respond to community needs is nothing new for Belyi and his roommates. In fact, the house of Moses is in Kyiv ” [réputée] for the commitment of the members of his community,” even before they became residents, explains Yana Tolmacheva, senior director of programs at the Houses of Moses for Russian-speaking Jews.

Despite everything, there are times when residents and community members find it difficult to reconcile their lives and work with this war that restricts their freedom. The curfew at 11 p.m. makes it difficult to organize evening programs. Concern is everywhere, and former residents or relatives — including a regular on the program Belyi met five years ago — have enlisted in the Ukrainian army.

At a time like this, the Homes of Moses in the former Soviet Union place a special emphasis on mental health.

“After all these weeks, even these months, we finally understood that the war was not going to end [tout de suite] ‘ says Belyi. “We have to help people to feel better. For this reason we have started organizing events again. »

The Passover Seder at Moses’ house in Kyiv, with new friends. (Credit: Kyiv House of Moses/via JTA)

The House of Moses in Kyiv therefore opens its doors wide, a place of refuge and a place of speech at the same time, to banish fears, have fun and celebrate the happy moments in life.

“It is important to remember that the war is not over. It is important that Ukraine keep this in mind, as well as the countries that support us,” says Belyi. “It’s not normal, it shouldn’t be normal, and there shouldn’t be war anywhere. »

Between the “bombings, the sirens and the bombs”, Belyi and his fellow residents of the house of Moses in Kyiv bring comfort to one another in this space they have designed: this house where they can work serenely, enjoy the balcony and provide for an oasis for those in need.

“In the house of Moses, I understood how different and diverse Judaism was and that you could be anything you wanted, both in Judaism and within the Jewish community,” Belyi concludes.

This article originally appeared in Jewish Chicago: The JUF Magazine and is republished with permission.

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