Optimism in Odessa: Misha’s story

“Finding Jewish inspiration on the other side of the world… as Jews living in North America, being Jewish is a choice inhibited usually only by our own preconditions and beliefs.

Misha, 11 years old

For Misha and his mom, living in Odessa, Ukraine, choosing to be Jewish is certainly not an easy choice to make.  In fact the choice to be Jewish in most Eastern European countries is a choice not without consequences.  But here, in a tiny little apartment on the fifth floor of a building without an elevator or air conditioning (it was 40 degrees on this day) live Misha, his mom and 17 year old sister. There are no bedrooms separated from living rooms or bathrooms.  From the kitchen to the sofa bed, everything is in the same confined living space.  And yet Misha and his mom have made a decision to live a Jewish life.  Misha is getting a Jewish education; they celebrate the Jewish holidays.  And they do all this because of the generosity of Jews in Montreal and around North America.  Our collective responsibility for one another has never been so apparent to me as it was on that hot summer afternoon, listening to Misha’s ambitions to lead a Jewish life at the age of 11, in a place where Jewish life is certainly the more difficult choice to make.  It is thanks to your generosity that Misha and his family can fulfill this dream…. I thank you on their behalf.”
- Yair Szlak, Campaign Director

Yair met Misha while chairing a Jewish Federations of North America Mission to Israel and Odessa.

Misha Abramovitch is 11 years old and lives in Odessa, Ukraine. His family history is filled with tragedy and misfortune. His mother, Anjela, was unable to work for several years because she was caring for her father-in-law, who was bedridden with cancer and died in 2011.

Shortly before his passing, Misha’s father died suddenly from pneumonia after being misdiagnosed by a doctor and not receiving the proper care and treatment. Anjela, herself, has many health problems in the form of crippling and painful joint disease and she is currently unable to apply for a partial disability. The family’s total income is only $110 a month that the state provides for the loss of Misha’s father. Misha’s older sister lived separately from them but was forced to give up the idea of continuing her education at college so she could get a job to provide some material support for the family.

Misha, Anjela and Misha’s sister live in a dilapidated one-bedroom apartment in need of repair. Misha and his mother were desperate – and in 2011, Federation-supported programs began to help them. They were provided with a sofa bed, so Misha no longer has to share a bed with his mother. Misha now goes to Jewish day school and receives school supplies. He also participates in activities and in Jewish community events at Beit Grand, a Jewish community centre. The family is provided with a food card each month and are finally starting to break through the terrible crisis that hit them.

Federation CJA, through Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA  and our partners abroad, help save the poorest Jews in Eastern Europe by providing food, medication, home care and winter relief for the impoverished; and delivering critical nutritional assistance, health care, financial support and child-development services to the neediest children and their families.

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