Centropa’s AudioWalks take you on a journey through the Jewish history of Central and Eastern Europe.

Use our multimedia maps, and explore the family pictures, archival material, and personal stories of 21 Jewish Holocaust survivors to get a unique insight into Europe’s rich Jewish heritage, and to discover sites of Jewish life in towns in Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania.

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Tzedakah – giving support to people in need– is an ethical obligation in Judaism. In the fast-growing Jewish community of Czernowitz, supporting the poor, sick and orphaned became increasingly important. When the Jewish organization “Machsike Shabbat” was founded at the end of the 19th century, established state-sponsored support did not exist. Machsike Shabbat provided primarily the poor members of the local Jewish community with necessary support.

In the early 20th century, several Jewish welfare institutions followed, among them an orphanage and a home for the Elderly with a Jewish hospital. By and large, these institutions stayed in operation in the interwar period, when Czernowitz was part of the Kingdom of Romania. Between 1940 and 1944, some buildings became part of the Jewish ghetto in 1941, and orphans were deported to Transnistria. After World War II, the Soviets dissolved the Jewish administration and nationalized all properties belonging to the Jewish community. The welfare organizations became part of the state and were used for non-Jewish purposes.

Following Ukraine’s independence, new organizations provided social support for Jews. From 1991 to 1999, the so-called “Fond” helped people in need from their office at the former Jewish National House. Since 2000, Hesed has been operating from the former German House. Hesed’s work contributed to the renaissance of Jewish culture in Czernowitz. Centropa interviewee Zakhar Benderskyi , who was born in 1912, stresses the importance of Hesed:

The Soviet power forced us to forget Jewish traditions. But with Ukraine’s independence, the Jewish way of life began to be restored. Hesed is of big help. We get food packages and medication, can see highly qualified , and we can also attend lectures, concerts and interesting films. We can even get Jewish newspapers and magazines for free at Hesed. If it weren’t for Hesed we would live a miserable life. People that had been working their whole life receive a pension that’s smaller than what they pay for rent and living costs. It’s important that we can go out and meet people. We celebrate Sabbath and all Jewish holidays in Hesed. Volunteers from Hesed visit us at home. We also have a nurse visiting us at home. It’s very helpful and makes our life different.

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Machsike Shabbat

Machsike Shabbat

Established in 1894, the organization “Machsike Shabbat” supported poor members of the local Jewish community in Chernivtsi until 1940.

Building of the fomer Jewish hospital

Israelite Home for the Elderly and Invalid

The Home for the Invalid and Elderly opened in 1911 and was the last big project of the Jewish community of Chernivtsi during the Habsburg period. With the adjoining Jewish hospital, it became part of the territory of the Ghetto in 1941.

Jewish Orphanage

The Jewish orphanage “Emperor Franz Joseph Jubilee Orphanage for the Israelites in Czernowitz” opened in 1904. It was administered under the guidance of the Board of the Jewish community until its nationalization in 1941.