Jewish population: approximately 40,000 (3.5 percent of city's population)
Children and Youth
More than 1,000 Jewish children living in Odessa and the surrounding area are now being assessed to determine their need for basic welfare assistance. Many of these children are considered at risk; some suffer from physical, mental or emotional disabilities, and others are abused, neglected or living in poverty.
In Odessa, two day-care centers help meet the diverse needs of the Jewish community's at-risk children; both centers are run jointly by Migdal JCC and Gmilus Hesed Welfare Center in Odessa. Established in January 2003, the Odessa Beitenu Center for Jewish Children and Familiesserves children who have normal physical and intellectual functioning but live in intense poverty and face other obstacles that put them at risk. Programs at the centerinclude after-school activities, psychological counseling, homework assistance, visits to museums and other cultural programs.
A second day-care center, the Odessa Beitenu Center for Jewish Children and Families with Special Needs, serves children with a wide range of physical and mental disabilities. The center places special emphasis on helping these children acquire skills and tools to function more effectively.
In 2003, the JDC launched the DeitskySOS program, which provides one-time emergency assistance to the neediest children. Through this program, Beitenu Centers have provided needy children ages 6 to 18 with physical, social and emotional assistance using a holistic approach involving the whole family.
Aging Residents and Services for the Elderly
An estimated 33 percent of the Jewish population of Odessa, some 14,000 people, are elderly.
As the economic situation of Ukraine is particularly acute, more than 90 percent of these older residents are in grave need. The overwhelming majority are Holocaust survivors.
Gmilus Hesed, the community's welfare organization, was established in 1994 by the Odessa Jewish Cultural Society and JDC, with support from the Claims Conference, the Weinberg Foundation and THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.
Gmilus Hesed reaches out to more than 8,500 needy in Odessa and surrounding areas with its 287 staff members, including 180 home-care workers and 220 volunteers.
The organization runs four communal dining rooms, delivers meals and distributes food packages; staff also provide home care and medical visits, medicine, winter relief and assistance with home repairs.
Gmilus Hesed has also established multiple Bayit Cham ("Warm Homes") where mobile elderly residents gather in private apartments or Jewish institutions for social interaction and Jewish activities.
Opportunities for Jewish Education in Odessa
More than 4,500 members of the Odessa community are actively involved in Jewish education.
Most opportunities for formal Jewish education come from the network of Or Sameach and Shomrei Shabbos Jewish religious societies as well as ORT and the Jewish Agency for Israel. There are seven day schools in Odessa.
The Migdal JCC offers informal educational opportunities on Jewish themes, such as singing, dancing, drawing, drama, Hebrew, history and tradition. The JCC also runs summer family retreats and a day camp.
Odessa's Hillel Center has become well known among the city's Jewish youth as a popular meeting place, reaching out to some 120 students through social events, educational programs and volunteer welfare projects.