The appearance of Chernivtsi and the Jewish community in it goes back to very remote times. One of the confirmations of Jews’ presence in Bukovina are coins of the Maccabean period (the beginning of Anno Domini) found near Khotyn. Some other archeological materials found there also testify that the Jewish population has already been living here since the very old times. Jews came here, on territory of Dacia, when the Roman colony was found in this region. In those colonies there were Jewish negotiators. The city of Chernivtsi itself was founded on the opposite bank of the Prut river, near the today’s settlement of Luzhany. In picturesque Carpathian region there are such towns as Vyzhnycja, Sadghora (Sadagura), Khotyn, where numerous Jewish communities used to exist. In Vyzhnycja Mendel Hager was born. He founded the tsadek dynasty in 1850. Sadagura, in its turn, is a place of the Chassid pilgrimage. It is here, in an old Jewish cemetery, where one of the founders of Chassidism, tsadek Israel Friedman from Rushyn was buried. In November 2000, more than 180 persons arrived there with the aim to visit his tomb when the Sadagura Chassids that had come from various parts of the world to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Israel Friedman’s birthday. About 10 thousand Jews lived in Sadagura in 1914. There were 11 small temples, 2 big Synagogues, and a Jewish school. Many Jewish families lived in Khotyn too. They were mostly merchants, shoemakers, cobblers, carpenters, tinsmiths, farmers, lawyers, doctors, and bankers.
In Bukovina, there were also a lot of Jewish peasants. As Jews spoke a language very cognate to German, it helped them in the Austrian period, when they were enjoying full rights both in industry and agriculture. There were agricultural Jewish colonies in Zastavna, Zhadova, and Vyzhnycja.
Jews were very active in the political and economic life of Bukovina and always lived in very good relations with other peoples. If one analyses this aspect of Bukovinian Jews’ life, one may come to the conclusion that this region was one of the most auspicious areas. Bukovina has never experienced interethnic conflicts. Both Germans, Jews, Ukrainians, Poles, Romanians, Armenians, Russians and other peoples used to live peacefully. And even despite of terrible victims of World War II, in Chernivtsi about 40 % of the Jewish population survived. It is the biggest percentage in Europe except for Romania.
About 3600 Jews live in the today’s Chernivtsi. In the region it is only Khotyn and Novoselycja where there are small Jewish communities consisting of about 15-20 persons. In the rest of Chernivtsi region the Jewish population is scattered about 25 towns and settlements. In some villages there is only one Jewish person or only one Jewish family. The Hesed takes care of each Jew or a member of the Jewish family.
The Hesed Wards living in the region, receive food sets, medicines; they obtain necessary medical consultation; they are also supplied with fuel (coal, firewood, gas-cylinders). They are delivered newspapers and winter clothes.
Every morning a minibus with the Hesed logotype is in a hurry to visit the wards living in the region. The chief purpose of those visits is deliver them equipment for lease as well as to get convinced that the wards are healthy.
Very often a psychotherapist accompanies the group leaving for the most remote parts of the region, such as Putyla or Sokyrjany. You see, a gentle word sometimes turns out much more effective for old people than the strongest medicines.
Our goal is that any Jew and any member of his or her family would not be left face to face with his or her problems and troubles, no matter how far from the center he or she lives.