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Ukraine Part II

Kyiv view with various cultural heritage monuments: St. Andrew's Church, Kyiv River Terminal
Kyiv view with various cultural heritage monuments: St. Andrew's Church, Kyiv River Terminal

As we come to the mitzvah of the week we want to share with you the words of our dear friend to this community
Hazzan Natasha Hirschhorn:

"What comes to your mind when you think of Ukraine?  Perhaps it’s a place your ancestors fled in horror, after pogroms. Perhaps it's a place you visited in a more recent memory, to trace your family’s history. Perhaps it only became more familiar to you in the last weeks, with the flood of terrifying news of Russian impending, and then ongoing, invasion.  I think of Kyiv as a place where I, and at least three generations of my family, were born. The place where I went to elementary school and where I returned to study in a Kiev conservatory, a place where I still have friends, family, classmates, and teachers. 

Kyiv is also a place where my grandmother lost her job at the Kiev Opera House after the arrest and murder of my maternal grandfather under Stalin in 1937, and where my great grandparents perished in Baby Yar. It is the place the German Nazis bombed at the begining of the war, on June 22, 1941, which was my father’s sixth birthday. He was anticipating attending a soccer match with his Dad, who instead was called to the army, while my father managed to flee the city with his mother and aunt. My father never saw his Dad again. In my lifetime, I fled Kyiv twice, on my own. Once as a fourteen year old escaping the radiation from Chernobyl, and again, in 1992, when I finally had a chance to come to the US. My history with Kyiv is complicated, tangled, and often painful. 

But I have also watched with admiration and pride when the citizens of Ukraine fought for their independence in the Orange Revolution, and built a democratic country that welcomes the Jews of all stripes, including Volodymir Zelenskij, its truly heroic president.  My friends and family members are now spending sleepless nights trying to escape Putin’s missiles, crowded in the Kyiv subway, or in their apartments, because they have elderly parents, who don’t have the mobility to flee or hide. They are watching the night sky light with explosions, and tell us when we call: “Don’t worry, we hear the fighting, but it has not hit us directly, Yet.” This is a horror we could not have imagined in our worst nightmare.

It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of such unprovoked aggression. Millions of lives in Ukraine are affected, including those of our fellow Jews, as Ukraine is home to one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe. The entire world order is disrupted. However, despair is not a solution. Here are a few things we can do. I hope and pray that our actions can and will bring real change.

May the Merciful One guide our hearts and our hands to help diminish the immense pain and suffering in Ukraine."

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As this is Refugee Shabbat, we are asking two different mitzvahs of you, both of them requiring you to open your wallet. Fundraisers tell you never to do that, but sometimes doing more than one thing is necessary.

  • First, we are observing Refugee Shabbat to help Afghani refugees. The newly formed NW Bronx Coalition for Refugees, an interfaith coalition of 40+ volunteers supported by HIAS and WJCI (Westchester Jewish Coalition for Immigration), is raising money to resettle an Afghan refugee family. They are halfway to their financial goal. The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (HIR) is serving as the fiscal sponsor and set up the following donation link: 
  • Second, also most urgently, is to aid the Ukrainian people. Here are two links within HIAS:

The need is great and the hour is short. Remember that whatever you do when added to the actions of others can make a real difference in peoples' lives. 

 “To save a life is to save a world” Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a)

Fri, May 20 2022 19 Iyyar 5782