This Week’s Ukraine Trip No Re-Run
By Samantha Dubrinsky,
BJF Director of Community Impact
I was having a conversation with a colleague last week and as we said goodbye, she said, “Have a great trip!” I responded, “Thanks! I’m really excited about going and a little nervous, too.” Her response was: “Well, you’re always really excited and a little nervous.” I laughed because she’s right. My impending trip overseas is no different for me in terms of my anticipation of what’s to come. But, in other ways, this trip will be nothing like I’ve experienced during my Federation career.
As I write this, I’m sitting in the Birmingham airport, getting ready to head to Kiev, Ukraine and Israel on a Jewish Federations of North America trip to learn fundraising strategies and more about what Federations are doing globally. (JFNA is the Birmingham Jewish Federation’s national organization.)
The last time I went to Ukraine on a Jewish trip was a particularly moving experience for me and I’ve written about it significantly for Update and on my blog on the Times Of Israel’s website. Our group went to Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, which is close to the area of conflict with Russia. That trip was raw, moving and showed me the vulnerability of the Jewish people firsthand. It truly changed my life and the way I think about my Federation work.
After the group’s experience in Ukraine, we head to Israel. I, of course, am excited about going to Israel, but my focus and thoughts are with the Ukrainian people right now.
I’ve braced myself for what could be the same moving experience on this trip. But I also know that Kiev is much more of a sophisticated city than Dnepropetrovsk is so the poor conditions might not be as obvious. I know that our itinerary includes a lot of conversations with Ukrainian people, including hearing from IDPs (Internally Displaced People) that the Federation movement has helped and I am anxious to hear what their status is today.
I spoke with IDPs on my last trip and the stories I heard were heart-shattering. Have we helped them since the last time I was there? Have they felt the love from the global Jewish community that we are sending them? Has it been enough? Is it ever enough?
Lots of questions and I hope to have a lot of answers by the end of my trip. I’ll be writing about it through Update so I’ll be sharing what answers I do find with readers throughout my week.