This week I traveled with eighteen New York rabbis to the Ukrainian border to bring medical supplies and hope to Refugees in Poland. At a make-shift refugee center on the border, under the roar of F-16s, I gave pictures drawn by the children of our Temple Shaaray Tefila ECC to an Israeli volunteer doctor to decorate the barren walls of the depressing and overcrowded facility that serves as a shelter for hundreds of refugees who fled their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs. The drawings showed hearts, sun’s shining and American flags to give the message “You are not alone. We are with you. We care.” Pictures from our Northern Westchester Temple’s Jewish children, given to an Israeli doctor, to decorate a Polish refugee center – this is our community in its finest hour.
Some of you may have seen the photos I posted on Facebook. What the photos don’t show is the sound of crying. Mothers separated from their sons and husbands who have been forced into conscription in a brutal war. The photos don’t show you the odor of people who have not washed properly in weeks. In a photo you don’t smell the choking smoke from fires burning in metal trash cans so people can warm themselves in the freezing weather.
How is this going to end? I asked this of Rabbi Pinchas Goldsmidt, the Chief Rabbi of Moscow, with whom I ate dinner with on Monday. He said there are 4 possibilities. 1. Ukraine could win. They have already lasted longer than anyone expected. 2. Russia wins, and there is a military occupation. 3. There is a cease fire and a division of the land. 4. Revolution in Russia.
Goldschmidt conducted a survey of the 20 and 30-year-olds of the 600,000 strong Russian Jewish community. 98% of these young Jews replied they want to leave Russia. They see the writing on the wall. Israel may be flooded with a larger number of Jews from Russia than from Ukraine.
Our flight departing Warsaw was delayed by over an hour. The plane was packed. The steward came on the microphone and explained we were delayed because KLM gave every empty seat to refugees being resettled in the Netherlands. The passengers broke out in applause.
Tragedy is unfolding before our eyes. We can help save human life from a modern Haman. Here are three things you can do.
Support the UJA of NY’s Ukraine crisis relief at ujafedny.org/crisis-donate. They are making a difference on the ground and saving lives.
Petition the Biden Administration to accept refugees.
You can volunteer at AFYA to pack medical supplies at their site in Yonkers.
Now is the time to help.
Rabbi David Wilfond