Bakers around the world are making hamantaschen to help Ukraine

“We were also thinking about Purim and about Putin as this sort of modern-day Haman."
'Hamantaschen for Ukraine' on the shelf at Fine Bagels on Berlin's East Side. (Photo Courtesy: Laurel Kratochvila)

When Berlin baker Laurel Kratochvila started selling hamantaschen and donating the profits to support Ukrainian refugees fleeing the ongoing Russian invasion, she had no idea it would turn into an international fundraiser. Now, hundreds of bakers across the world have joined her effort.

“When the war broke out we were just thinking: what can we do to help?” explained Kratochvila, the Jewish-American owner of Fine Bagels, a New York-style bagel shop on Berlin’s East Side.

Kratochvila’s husband grew up in Russian-occupied Czechoslovakia so watching Russia’s attack on Ukraine felt “very close to home,” she said.

“Because we’re in the lead up to Purim, we always start making hamantaschen and it’s an extra on top of our normal sales. So we thought, why don’t we donate the money from those sales instead.”

“We were also thinking about Purim and about Putin as this sort of modern-day Haman,” she added.

The story of Purim marks the survival of the Jewish community from the evil tormentor Haman. ‘Haman’-taschen, the triangular pastry eaten on the holiday, are said to symbolize Haman’s 3-cornered hat and signifies the Jewish people’s victory.

“We thought maybe we should start calling them Putin-taschen instead of Hamantaschen this year,” Kratochvila told me with a laugh.

That idea quickly evolved into a local project called “Hamantaschen For Ukraine,” a “show of bakery solidarity for the people of Ukraine.” The project encourages bakers to sell hamantaschen and donate profits to the Polish Humanitarian Action, an organization that distributes food, shelter, clothing, hygiene products and provides information and transportation for newly arrived refugees from Ukraine.

“I called up a bunch of people I know and right away a bunch of people got on board,” said Kratochvila. Most people she has been in contact with have been eager to help, she noted.

One of the calls she made was to Joe Baur, a food and travel writer based in Berlin, who helped spread the word and wrote about ‘Hamantaschen for Ukraine’ in The Nosher, a popular Jewish food site.

“I thought maybe I could get like 10 people in Berlin to do it,” Kratochvila said.

“Now, there are hundreds of people jumping on board baking hamentashen, selling hamentashen and donating.”

This week Kratochvila has received at least 500 emails from people who want to join.

“A lot of home bakers got involved, there’s some people who have gotten their schools involved, and [some] doing community bake sales.”

You don’t need to own a bakery to participate and you don’t need to be Jewish either.

“It’s really spilled beyond the community of Jewish bakers that I know,” said Kratochvila. “There’s a lot of bakers beyond the Jewish community participating who are discovering hamantaschen and learning about Purim through this.”

A full list of participating bakeries can be found on their website under “where to find hamantaschen.” The list includes over 100 bakeries from across the globe.

“Actually, I think there are hamantaschen available in unexpected bakeries and corners of the world now,” said Kratochvila. “Food is something that brings us together and it’s something that makes us see the humanity in each other. I don’t think that’s a message that’s being lost here.”

Since donations are decentralized – Kratochvila is asking each baker to donate their proceeds independently and report back – it’s hard to track exact numbers, but she estimates the current sales at €20,000 (or ~$22,000). 

“I’m hoping that between now and Purim people can come together and hopefully raise around €50,000. I think that’d be amazing.”

For Kratochvila, who has been responding to hundreds of emails a day and managing the project’s social media in addition to her responsibilities as a business owner, taking on an initiative of this magnitude wasn’t originally in the cards.

She hopes ‘Hamantaschen for Ukraine’ will only be the start of similar actions to support Ukrainian refugees, citing “Cook For Ukraine” as a similar fundraiser.

“We’ve got about a week to go, but after Purim people can still do actions like this, they can still donate,” she added. “Whether it’s towards Polish Humanitarian Action or to whatever route they find the most meaningful. It doesn’t have to end at Purim.”