Maryland teen raises $22K for Ukrainian Jews' Passover

A couple months ago, the 17-year-old launched Jews4Ukraine, a fundraising campaign to purchase Passover food for Ukrainians.
Posted at 10:24 AM, Apr 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-12 10:24:57-04

Thousands of miles away from the death and destruction in Ukraine, Adrian Maydanich, an American high schooler in Baltimore, keeps thinking that could be him. He's the son of immigrants from Lviv and Kyiv, Ukraine, who fled persecution and antisemitism in the former Soviet Union in the late 1970s. 

Practicing Judaism in Ukraine today is once again challenging — so Maydanich decided to help.

A couple of months ago, the 17-year-old launched Jews4Ukraine: a fundraising campaign to purchase Passover foods for Ukrainians. 

With help from the humanitarian organization Jewish Relief Network Ukraine, Maydanich has raised over $22,000 to help hundreds of Ukrainian Jews celebrate Passover.

"It was really about offering hope to these people who are going through so much, and people that we are really connected to," said the junior at Beth Tfiloh Congregation and Community School.

During the week-long Passover holiday, Jewish people avoid eating anything with grain that has risen or fermented, like breads pasta, and much more. So having access to kosher-for-Passover foods instead, like the unleavened bread matzo, is crucial. 

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"These people have no way to feed themselves. In most cases, there's food in the grocery store, but they don't have any money to get it," explained Judi Garrett, the chief operating officer of the Jewish Relief Network Ukraine. 

Garrett says her organization helps 50,000 Ukrainian Jews across 39 communities every month. 

"We give them food or we give them medicine, or we teach them in our schools, or we have them in the orphanage, or we provide medical care," she says. 

So when Maydanich called, it was the ideal match — though, at first, Garett was confused by how mature the teenager sounded. 

"I have six children of my own, many of whom have been 17. I got to say few if any, sounded like him." 

Maydanich says seeing photos of Ukrainian children happily posing next to matzos and other Passover foods has been extremely rewarding. 

"I was able to see just how impactful our work was. And so happy to see that," he said. 

Maydanich says his parents are proud of him — and his friends have helped by donating, "even though they're just high school students and they don't have a lot of money," he said. 

After working on this project every day since December, he's ready to take a break for now and focus on the rest of his junior year.