Teens create vibrant sunflowers for hope and unity in Ukraine
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Teens create vibrant sunflowers for hope and unity in Ukraine

Heidi Mae Bratt

At work doing a mitzvah for Ukrainian Jewish youth.
At work doing a mitzvah for Ukrainian Jewish youth.

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine happened in February, the Jewish world, including local teens, came to the fore, and in any way that they could, tried to help their brethren in the eastern European country under siege.

Among the projects that Valley Chabad in Woodcliff Lake launched for its C-Teens, teenagers engaged in its various community programs, was an art and fundraising project to get funds as quickly as they could to funnel to Yeka Girls, a Ukrainian nonprofit that helps provide underprivileged Jewish children Ukrainian a chance to flourish through camps, education, providing clothing and other community services.

As part of its Purim event, said Rabbi Yosef Orenstein, of Valley Chabad, the organization enlisted the help of artist and Russian native Marina Katsnelson, who helped the youngsters create beautiful pictures in hues of yellow, blue, and white, sunflowers — the national flower of the Ukraine. The image was printed on T-shirts and sold quickly to raise more than $700 for the cause.

Ms. Katsnelson of Washington Township is a pharmacologist by profession, but an artist by avocation and she posts her work on Facebook and other platforms.

She said she was very flattered to be enlisted by Rabbi Orenstein to help the youngsters empower them to do something to combat “the whole awfulness of this” and so use their feelings for a creative end and to help those who were still in the Ukraine.

Likewise, Tiffany Suponitskiy, 16 and a sophomore at Pascack Hills High School, and a C-Teen leader, said the effort was very close to her heart her family hails from the Ukraine and she still has relative who were living there before making it to safety and leaving for Poland.

The vibrant symbol of the sunflower is more important now than ever, said Tiffany.

“It is a symbol not only of unity, but also of hope.”

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