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Our connection with Ukraine

Our graphic artist, Y., formerly of Jerusalem, lives in Kharkiv in Ukraine, which has been under daily bombardment since Russian attacks began on February 24. He writes us when he has an internet connection. Recently he wrote: “The situation is serious. Instead of 50 shellings a day, now it is 60.” Just before the holidays, he wrote to wish us a happy Passover, adding that 1,600 buildings had already been destroyed in his city. (This edition of HASHIVAH was created by him under fire.)

It is everyman’s nightmare. Excruciating images of masses of fleeing refugees under bombardment. Women, children, the elderly and infirm running the gauntlet to escape. Families separated. Hospitals, schools, kindergartens destroyed. Civilian apartment blocks turned into rubble. Whole cities under siege without water, heat, electricity, neighborhoods flattened. Widespread evidence of executions of civilians and of mass graves. The deliberate targeting of civilians, as ordered by one vainglorious man and carried out by his minion generals in the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This, just 90 years after the Holodomor, the killing of millions of Ukrainian civilians through forced starvation by Stalinist policies. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky entreats the world for the means to defend his people today, but first the world calculates: Is it safe? Is it wise? Is it profitable? What is morally right comes second. The world has not changed. In the meantime the number of victims climb.

There’s a powerful message here for Israel and Jews worldwide. As we face openly-stated threats of annihilation, such as from nuclear-advancing Iran, with the USA and European nations downplaying the threat and eager to sign a nuclear agreement with Teheran, moral considerations are subordinated to political and economic, self-benefitting, considerations. That’s how it was 80 years ago during the Holocaust too.

I have a personal connection to the Russia-Ukraine War, which I shared in a recent letter to friends, since my brother-in-law and his wife live there. They decided to stay in Ukraine, working on their farm and running their bakery, because the local villagers and refugees depend on them for food. They are sheltering 20 refugees at a time.

As young children growing up in the Goldberg home, my brother David and I heard stories from our parents about the Holocaust and WWII: about persecution and flight under bombardment; about the difficulties of obtaining food and taking care of basic necessities; about death and destruction; about betrayal and unexpected aid and shelter; about refugees and family reunions.

The Holocaust was a unique tragedy in history; still many of the scenes in Ukraine today are the same as 80 years ago. Some of our older readers and supporters went through similar experiences.

We are aiding a coordination center in Ukraine, among other projects. The center is organizing help for elderly Holocaust survivors to provide them with food and other necessities, as well as to arrange for escape and transport to Israel. So far, some 9,000 Ukrainian refugees and 4,000 Russian immigrants (many fearing what happens after the war) have come to Israel since the war broke out.

LEMA’AN ZION has been helping refugees for decades: Jews from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. And we do so in keeping with a practice our father began after WWII, when he organized large aid collections in Sweden, filling buses, trucks and railroad cars with goods to help refugees of any nationality in northern Europe.

Of course, we must continue our other projects, including aiding Holocaust survivors in Israel; sponsoring soup kitchens; ongoing support for terror victims and Gush Katif expellees. Likewise, our hasbarah (educational) efforts about Israel and tefillah (prayer support) programs continue.

We have been called upon to help in this emergency. We wanted to share this with you. “He who shows kindness to the poor lends to the LORD; He will repay his kindness” (Prov. 19:17).

–Gabriel A. Goldberg