Beth Tfiloh High Schooler Helps Bring Passover to Ukraine


The son of 1970s refugees from the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Lviv, Adrian Maydanich, 17, wanted to bring Passover to the tens of thousands of Jews that have remained in the country during Russia’s war in Ukraine.

(Adrian Maydanich)

The Owings Mills teen did so through his online Jews4Ukraine Passover Appeal, which raised more than $20,000 for kosher-for-Passover supplies for this year.

“I kind of used that connection of my family heritage and my religion to offer these people something tangible that they could actually use, but something that could also bring them hope,” said Maydanich, who is a junior at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Pikesville. His family is Reform and attends Beth Tfiloh Congregation.

The idea began with a Google search, tracking the organizations that were already helping Ukrainian Jews. Maydanich came upon Jewish Relief Network Ukraine. JRNU was raising millions and providing humanitarian and religious aid to Ukrainian Jews affiliated with 39 congregations and communities.

Maydanich was impressed by their efforts and wanted to get involved. “I was, like, you know what? Let’s try to get a big fundraising push for this one holiday and offer these communities, these families, an opportunity to celebrate Passover with each other.”

Jewish Relief Network Ukraine, which is sponsoring 142 communal seders in April, helped Maydanich set up a donation page that linked to their website.

JRNU also hosted a promotional video that Maydanich produced on its YouTube channel.

In the video, Maydanich is at 7 Mile Market in Pikesville. “I’m at my local kosher supermarket shopping for Passover foods,” he says on camera. “Here’s what a typical aisle in the U.S. looks like, with an abundance of choices.” The video then cuts to empty grocery shelves in Ukraine. “But there is little to no kosher-for-Passover food in Ukraine,” he says in a voiceover. “Jews in Ukraine don’t have access to a single box of matzah. I realize that had my family not emigrated, I could be facing these same circumstances.”

Maydanich also made his appeal in an article he published on Jewish Unpacked, a social media platform with 500,000 followers. “More than 14 million Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes since Russia first invaded Ukraine one year ago,” his article begins. “Some of them are Jews who thrived in their once large and lively communities. The war has made it difficult for them to continue practicing the most basic and storied Jewish traditions, like sitting down with family and friends for a Passover meal.”

Judi Garrett, JRNU chief operating officer, called Maydanich’s appeal “amazing. The level of maturity and sophistication, determination was astonishing to me.

“I spoke to the director of his school a couple times to get a reference, and she also had great confidence in him. She just confirmed everything I thought,” she said.

Maydanich did everything on his own, she said. “We’ve given him some little factoids and created a little page and that’s it.”

Garrett said that each Passover package costs $100 per household and contains enough food for the week.

Religion was banned in the former Soviet Union, so many Ukrainian Jews have only cultural ties to Judaism, Garrett noted. “There are definitely Jews who have never been to a seder or led a seder and therefore the communal seder is a great opportunity for them as well. We are seeing many more individuals come forth as Jews than we have seen in the past.”

Maydanich’s fundraising appeal is an experience he’ll never forget, he said.

“Through this fundraising campaign, I was connected to some amazing people, whether through my school or local community or synagogue or online,” he said.

“It was such a personal mission for me,” he said. “Even though I’m a regular 17-year-old kid with a passion for this stuff, people were still willing to donate so I was extremely thrilled about that.”

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