As this issue goes to print, Russia has just invaded Ukraine. We are all dismayed by the images coming out of Ukraine of fighter jets flying overhead, warships near the shore and tanks rolling through streets with cars driving in opposite directions. A newborn intensive care unit was moved into a basement in case the bombings damaged the hospital.
These images are in stark contrast to the images I experienced first hand in Ukraine just over four years ago on a Federation mission. I can’t stop thinking about the image on the wall in Freedom Square in Kiev with chains breaking and the line “Freedom is our Religion.” That is all at risk now.
I can’t stop thinking about the older people we visited and danced with at the local JCC. The students we spent time with who are working hard to create a thriving Jewish community for the youth of Ukraine. The kids we met at the camp outside of the city that brings Jewish kids from around Ukraine to experience Jewish camp, many for the first time. As Ukraine established its independence, a democracy developed that allowed for many to come back to their Jewish roots. A democracy that led to the election of a Jewish President. How wonderful is that!
All of this is at risk. It is times like this where my desire to help our community beyond the local geography is greatest. I wish there was more I could do. I find comfort in the fact that our Jewish Federation and our partner organizations, like JDC, the Jewish Agency for Israel and World ORT, are on the ground doing the necessary work to support our Jewish community in Ukraine. For our part, we need to help fund their great work.
I hope by the time this gets published, this invasion is over and Ukraine is able to continue as the wonderful democracy it has become. I have no doubt that whether this conflict is over or not, there will be others. There will always be Jewish communities, here and abroad, that need our support. Our contributions to the annual campaign supports Jews locally, nationally and all around the world.
I love the phrase told to me once about the Annual Campaign: The Campaign is about one Jew asking another Jew to help a third Jew. I am asking all of you to help.