Real Time Ukraine Update

Friday, 4 March, 2022 - 2:18 pm

I want to share with you some real time updates that I am getting from colleagues on the ground in Ukraine and those that recently escaped.

As the hostilities escalated, it became clearer that things were going to be much tougher than anticipated. Leaked information from Russian military units indicated that senior Jewish leadership would be targeted specifically. Chechen fighters aligned with the Russian forces, were seen to have displayed indiscriminate cruelty even against civilians, raping and pillaging like the “good old days” when the Cossacks and the Tatars united to terrorize the region and especially the Jews. In cities with high level clashes such as Charkov, Sumy, Zhaparozhe, Chernigov, Zhitomir, Chernovitz, and of course Kyiv, the focus turned from hunkering down to getting as many people out as possible. Here are some actual experiences of Ukraine Shluchim and their communities.

My cousin and her husband together with their eight children, including a three week old baby, went on a 60 hour journey through Ukraine, Moldava, Romania and then on to Israel.

A good friend, together with his family and the other Shluchim of his city, went on a dangerous escape across the border that included some very tense moments of trying to obtain more gasoline for the escape vehicles.  

A classmate and his family were jammed onto a train for 20 hours along with thousands of others trying to leave with not an inch to move, no access to food or facilities.

Another friend and his family had all of their escape routes apparently cut off by Russian forces, until they managed to break through and leave on a 24 hour car ride towards the border to safety.

A colleague shared a tearful voice note about how torn he was to be leaving the community that he has led since the early 90s. After filling 10 buses with members of the community, he grabbed the Torah and got on the last bus to safety.

I could go on and on. Even as these Shluchim and their communities reach the borders in safety, they are left homeless and penniless. Although they hope to be able to return and rebuild after the situation improves, they have no idea to what extent of destruction they will return. In the meantime, there are hundreds of Shluchim and tens of thousands of refugees from these communities that need to be cared for.

We, the international Jewish community, need to step up and be their support system. These are our brothers and sisters. Please open your hearts and wallets to generously contribute to the relief effort at Let us go into a peaceful Shabbat, knowing that we are doing our part to care about our brethren in crisis.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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