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Praying for Ukraine

02/25/2022 11:35:32 AM


Dear Friends,

Years ago as a young rabbi at Am Shalom, I had the sacred honor of traveling with my good friend and Am Shalom member, Robert Max Schrayer, to Kiev as part of a Jewish United Fund leadership mission.

On the mission we visited a vibrant but poor Jewish community attempting to  make a go of it. We visited elderly Jews barely making enough to survive. I remember singing songs and handing out Judaica at a Jewish summer camp for children who had gathered from all over Ukraine. These children  were so appreciative of our visit and so proud of what they were learning.

I stood in sadness in the forest of Babi Yar, where over 33,000 Jews were killed in a single weekend at the hands of the Nazis in September of 1941. My week in Ukraine more than a decade ago left a lasting impression of a devoted, kind and peaceful Jewish community - the 5th largest Jewish community in the world - who wanted desperately to make things better for themselves and for their families.    

Fast forward to today. I watch with heartbreak as global peace is in peril and Ukraine is at war. Without question, Russian aggression is a threat to Ukraine’s democracy, its independence, and to a stable European and global community. The fact that Ukraine’s fragile democracy could be subsumed is both heartbreaking and terrifying for all of us.  

For those of you with family and friends in Ukraine, including members of our senior staff, we are praying for you and your loved ones. We are here for anything you need. We will gather for Shabbat as we always do, and will pray for peace and understanding for our entire world. 
We will continue to support steps to strengthen Ukrainian democracy and secure the well-being of Ukraine’s Jewish community. There are several wonderful organizations that have set up funds to help support the Jewish community in Kiev especially:

  • The Jewish United Fund has advanced $1 million in emergency funds and has been working with partners on the ground in Ukraine (JDC, The Jewish Agency for Israel, World ORT) to enable uninterrupted humanitarian aid and other essential services.
  • The World Union for Progressive Judaism has launched a Ukraine Crisis Fund. Donations will support the Jewish community in Ukraine.

The ongoing and vital work of the JDC and WUPJ to come to the aid of those in need all over the world makes me proud.

One of the songs that we sang at camp that afternoon in Kiev was Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu. Soon will come peace to all of us. That was my hope then and certainly is my hope now.

Rabbi Steven Stark Lowenstein

Sat, December 2 2023 19 Kislev 5784