Hillel center in Odesa, Ukraine, damaged by Russian strike

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A Russian missile strike caused “significant damage” to Hillel International’s offices in Odesa, Ukraine on Sunday, the organization said.

It was the second time a Hillel building in Ukraine was damaged by Russian fire since the start of the war last year. Its chapter in Kharkiv was destroyed by Russian shelling last year.

The International Jewish Life organization, which operates on college campuses and supports young adult non-students in some places, including Ukraine, shared news of the damage on social media Tuesday. It said the missile had destroyed the office’s door and windows, and that the ceiling collapsed, but that no one was in the building at the time.

“I do hope we will be able to restore programs as soon as possible,” Osik Akselrud, director of Hillel’s Central Asia and Southeastern Europe regions, said in a statement. Hillel also shared a brief video appearing to show a construction crane already present on the scene working to repair the damage

One day before the bombing, Hillel Odessa shared photos of its recent Havdalah activity, a post-Shabbat celebration in which students imagined a “Jewish city of the future.”

Municipal workers remove debris at a site of a building damaged during Russian missile strikes, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine July 23, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/Nina Liashonok)

Ukraine's Jewish population

Hillel Kharkiv — which last year mourned the death in combat of a Ukrainian Jew who had been active there — has continued offering active programming in the past year and recently celebrated Lag b’Omer. Hillel operates several centers in Ukraine with the support of Jewish philanthropies including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Schusterman Family Philanthropies. It also operates in eight Russian cities.

Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, has at times used the threat of damage to Ukrainian Jewish sites to rally world Jews to the war effort. But as at other times when Jewish sites have suffered damage, the most recent bombardment in Odesa appeared to be indiscriminate and also damaged other Ukrainian historic sites.

One person was killed during the most recent strike in the city, which before the Holocaust was one of the largest Jewish population centers in the world.

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