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New immigrants from France arrive at Ben Gurion  on July 23, 2018 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
New immigrants from France arrive at Ben Gurion on July 23, 2018 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Hosting seders for Ukrainian refugees in Israel since 1788

Over 4,500 Ukrainian refugees will enjoy royal treatment as Seder guests of Colel Chabad, which has been serving refugees from Ukraine and everywhere else for 234 years

Every Jew should feel like royalty at the Passover Seder. Refugees from Ukraine are no exception. And royal treatment is what some 4,500 refugees will get on Friday evening, April 15th, as Colel Chabad welcomes them to its 234th annual public Passover Seders.

If there is one ‘brand’ that keeps popping up in all the reporting on Ukrainian refugees, it’s Chabad. In Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Poland, Germany, and Hungary, Chabad is there helping everyone – not only Jews – as they escape from the terrifying invasion.

In Israel, Colel Chabad, the social welfare network of Chabad-Lubavitch, welcomes these refugees with open arms, new clothing, and nutritional security — no questions asked.

Ukrainian refugees may be fresh news for most people. But at Colel Chabad, it’s a story that goes back to the organization’s creation 234 years ago by the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi.

Since then, the raison d’etre of Colel Chabad has been to provide for the needy in Eretz Israel – now Israel – especially those who arrived as penniless refugees from hostile environments overseas.

Often – too often – this hostile environment has been Ukraine, where Jews have historically been persecuted and victimized by poverty, pogroms, and, of course, during the Holocaust.

Because Jews from Ukraine (and everywhere else) have been arriving as penniless refugees to Israel for over two centuries, Colel Chabad has always been there for them. Indeed, when the State of Israel was established in 1948, most of its Jewish population was of eastern European descent, primarily from Ukraine. For well over two centuries, those Ukrainian Jewish refugees could always find a warm smile and a helping hand through Colel Chabad.

Support Colel Chabad

In each succeeding generation, Colel Chabad has always remained the personal tzedakah of the Lubavitcher Rebbe at that time. Under the leadership of the seventh Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the organization scaled to vastly greater heights, making it not only the oldest but the largest and most multifaceted social welfare network in Israel.

Today, Colel Chabad is the designated partner of the Israeli Government in the effort to assure nutritional security for ALL Israelis – Jew and non-Jew alike. The organization maintains a nationwide food delivery and voucher distribution program that reaches thousands of deserving households year-round. Thousands more are served during peak holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah and Passover. Additionally, Colel Chabad maintains a network of 22 free soup kitchens disguised as quality restaurants. Here the indigent are welcomed graciously and served a hot, nutritious meal as honored guests – no questions asked, ever.

Volunteers prepare food for Ukrainians refugees hosted by residents in Sireti village, on March 29, 2022. (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP)

Colel Chabad adheres to two cardinal principles. The first: assistance is given to those in need regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity, or degree of religious observance. The second: all help is provided in a manner that not only maintains but enhances the dignity of the recipient.

Today Colel Chabad sits astride a multifaceted network of institutions and services for those in need. These include:

A network of modern daycare centers for the care of children of poor working mothers. In the past, too many young mothers could not work and support their families because they had small children at home. Colel Chabad daycare centers empower these moms to be proudly self-sufficient and enjoy peace of mind knowing their toddlers are lovingly cared for as they work.

Advanced treatment for victims of multiple sclerosis and other degenerative diseases. Colel Chabad’s two in/outpatient centers in Migdal HaEmek and Jerusalem set the standard for making life meaningful and productive for those who suffer from such dreaded illnesses.

Holistic care for widows and orphans. For Colel Chabad, helping orphaned families means much more than material assistance. It means doing everything necessary to enable a widow/er and their children to live normal lives. This includes vacation retreats for widowed moms, summer and winter camps for fatherless children, private tutoring, music lessons, psychotherapy and big brothers/sisters for the kids, bar/bat mitzvah preparation, and a nationwide celebration for orphaned boys and girls.

Meaningful activities and assistance for immigrant seniors. For older refugees, life in a new country can be incredibly daunting. Colel Chabad maintains a network of senior centers where these men and women can spend their days in the company of their peers and enjoy a fresh, hot lunch, special classes, outings, and other leisure activities.

Subsidized weddings for poor brides and grooms. Colel Chabad maintains two magnificent wedding halls in Jerusalem where indigent young couples can get married in style.

Interest-free loans. Too often, the only thing that stands in the way of poverty and independence is the inability to get financing with which to start a small business or vocational training. Colel Chabad makes interest-free loans available to deserving men and women who wish to stand on their own two feet.

Pediatric dental clinics. Colel Chabad pioneered free dental clinics and mobile dental units to serve the needs of poor children. In the past, children from poor homes were forced to neglect their teeth as dental care was beyond their parents’ means. Today, such children can enjoy free preventive and basic dental care and hygiene by going to a Colel Chabad pediatric dental clinic.

Colel Chabad is a proud and venerable project of Chabad-Lubavitch. Its efforts are made possible thanks to the generosity of friends and donors – Jew and gentile – worldwide. Without them, none of the above would be possible. Colel Chabad can grow exponentially because of such generosity. And because donors know that not a penny gets wasted. Colel Chabad operates on one of the leanest operational budgets in the world of charity.

If you would like to find out more about Colel Chabad and how you can be a partner in doing a world of good, please go to www.colelchabd.org. And have a sweet and joyous Passover.

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