The week I got an unexpected phone call from one of my former congregants in Ukraine. Though I had not seen him in 25 years, I remembered Victor Topolnick immediately. When I was a Rabbi in Kyiv, a scrawny young college student showed up at Shabbat Services and asked if he could join the congregation. He told me he had Jewish parents, but they had been atheists and never taught him about religion. His way of rebelling against his parents was to learn about Judaism and join a synagogue. At the time I remember thinking this is the opposite of American teens who rebel against their parents by dropping-out of synagogues. Here in Ukraine young people were rebelling against their communist parents by opting-in to religion. Victor became very active in our synagogue and came to every service and adult education program. Eventually he married a Jewish woman and had three children. A few years ago, another congregant told me that she had heard that Victor had left Kyiv and gone back to live in his hometown, Kirovograd, about 3 hours south of Kyiv.
This week, out of the blue, Victor sent me the attached photograph. He is now 43 years old and, in the photo, he is wearing a military uniform in front of the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine. Victor tells me. “I was drafted into the army. I’m serving in the medics. We use a tourniquet called the American Tourniquet. Rebbe, I know you are American. Can you send us some American Tourniquets?”
Gary Cohn, a leader of our Social Action Committee and I zoomed this week with Victor at his army base in Kirovograd. He was surrounded by other soldiers. Gary also asked questions about tourniquets and hemostatic agents.
While they were speaking, I began to understand, Victor is trying to stop the bleeding, physically and metaphorically of the Ukrainian people. Our congregation and our Social Action Committee, can help.
The first Passover in Egypt was marked by blood on the doorposts. Today in Ukraine, many families have experienced bloodshed by the doors of their homes. By sending something as simple as a tourniquet we, members of Shaaray Tefila, can help save lives and the loss of blood of innocents.
Passover is about standing up to Pharaohs and tyrants. In the coming days, Gary Cohn and our Social Action Committee will reach out to the congregation with a plan to purchase and deliver to Victor and his friends, tourniquets and supplies so they can save lives.
Here is a link so you can purchase a tourniquet and then drop it off for Gary Cohn at the Temple office. You can reach out to Gary for details.
At Passover, may we not only sing songs of Freedom, may we also work to bring hope and supplies to those who struggle for Freedom and fulfill the message of Passover today.
Rabbi David Wilfond