Opinion: Jews have an obligation to help with the crisis in Ukraine


"Facade of Brygidki Prison" by Adam Jones CC

The Brygidki Prison in Lyiv, Ukraine is a Soviet political prison that Soviets burned down and blamed the Jews. It then became the site of a pogrom against Jews during the Holocaust with 7,000-8,000 casualties according to Yad Veshem, which is emblematic of Jews’ intense history in Ukraine.

Adin Halbfinger, News Editor

I have been raised to believe that every Jew has a responsibility to help other Jews. Amid the recent hostilities in Ukraine, it is of the utmost importance to me that Jews across the world do whatever they can to help the Ukrainian Jews who are among those suffering.

As I learned in my Modern Jewish History class this year, the history of Jews in Ukraine is anything but pretty. Under the Russian Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries, Jews were restricted to live in the Pale of Settlement, a western part of the Russian Empire. Then, under the Soviet Union, Jews were stripped of their freedom of religion. Even as recently as 30 or so years ago, my mother and grandparents visited Ukraine and were met with chants to ”drown the Russians in Jewish blood.”

However, things have recently been looking up for Jews in Ukraine. In 2007, the Ukrainian government returned 700 Torah scrolls that had been confiscated by the Soviets to Jewish communities across the country. And, in the past 10 years, Ukraine has even elected a Jewish prime minister and president. 

As Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki, the Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, said in 2014, “Jews have nothing to be afraid of here.”

However, now that Vladimir Putin has invaded Ukraine, the peace that Jews finally found is at risk of disappearing. I have heard many speculate that Putin’s ultimate goal is to recreate the Soviet Union. If that is true, then it is very likely that Jews in eastern Europe will no longer find themselves with the freedom to walk around with a Kippah or even pray in synagogues.

To not have these freedoms is an incredibly foreign idea to me as a Jew in America, a country where there are many laws in place securing my freedom to practice religion. But, it isn’t so distant, because it is a reality for many less fortunate Jews around the world. If we don’t do everything we can to help the Ukrainian Jewish community, then they too will lose those freedoms, and 400,000 people will be at risk of losing their Jewish identity very soon.

When my grandfather went to Ukraine, he met a man named Meylakh Sheykhet, who is a member of the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union. In an interview with CBN News this year, Sheykhet said, “[Jews] had a second holocaust, a spiritual holocaust, in Soviet times.”

We as the international Jewish community need to do everything we can to help avoid another “spiritual holocaust” in Ukraine. By writing this article I would like to think that I am raising awareness about this terrible situation, but just that is not enough.

That is why I would recommend donating to a few organizations. One such organization is Moishe House. Moishe House is an organization that runs programming for Jewish communities all over the world. They have 4 “Moishe Houses” in Ukraine, including in Kharkiv and Kyiv, two cities that are currently under siege from the Russians. They currently have a fund, which you can access here that will go towards helping the Moishe House volunteers and communities who are affected by the Russian invasion.

Another fund that I ask you to donate to is the Chabad Ukraine Jewish Relief Fund. Chabad Lubavitch has 384 emissaries in Ukraine, and has “been providing food, water, medicine, shelter, and (when possible) safe passage out of the most dangerous areas to whoever needs it.” You can either donate to the fund as a whole or to a specific city.

However, I also ask that you don’t just blindly follow my requests. There are countless other organizations helping Ukrainian Jews in many different ways. I ask that you do your own research and find a fund that speaks to you personally. And please, donate because every cent matters.