‘I never thought we’d see this in our lifetimes:’ how many people have said those words in the last two days. Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Kharkov, Kyiv, all the Ukraine, and to the world, to the children of now and the future, because once again tyranny and destruction have been let loose.
I think of Osip Mandelstam, the great Russian-Jewish poet who perished in transit to Stalin’s gulags. In January 1937 he wrote from exile in Voronezh
What shall we do with the plains’ beaten weight?…
And crawling across them
is that not the one whose name we shriek in our sleep –
the Judas of nations unborn?
People across the Ukraine, who are all on the front line facing this terrible betrayal of their humanity, hope and freedom, urgently need our help. Last night, at a service joined by hundreds across the world, Rabbi Reuven Stamov spoke from Czernowitz, explaining that people were gathering there in the west, currently the safest part of the country. They need food and shelter. There are already tens of thousands of refugees, and many elderly, unable to travel, left behind. There are hundreds of centres taking in people on the Polish border. Below are the details of our appeals and prayers.
Just now on Radio 4 a brave woman, speaking from the shelter where she spent the night, said ‘We need your help. We are your front line in Europe.’ She may well be right; this is war in Europe.
No doubt, in the coming years citizens of Russia too will pay miserably for this needless war, in money spent on armies and conquests instead of on their civic needs.
What in times like these, does Judaism teach us to do? One feels powerless and useless. The little good one tries to do seems like nothing, like dry earth disintegrating into dust in one’s hands. As the morning prayers say, ‘What can we tell you, God? The powerful are like nothing; the wise know nothing…’
Yet throughout the tribulations of history, Judaism has taught us to keep faith. There is a tried and tested resilience in the practices, prayers and values of Jewish life.
This faith is two-fold. In the first place it is faith writ large, the undying hope that one day the sun of righteousness and justice will shine forth, with healing on its wings; that one day all humanity will understand that this is God’s earth and behave towards each other and all life with integrity and respect.
In the second place, and this may be more important to us today, it is faith writ small. It is the faith which tells us never to succumb to the feeling that we make no difference or that our actions don’t matter. It’s the day-by-day faith of the ordinary mitzvah: keep going, keep helping whoever you can, keep giving, keep blessing God and life and for the small things, keep doing what’s good and fair, keep a hospitable heart and home, keep planting hope, keep validating what we and others can – and often succeed – in doing, take nothing for granted.
None of this everyday wisdom can withstand military might. But it takes shelter in billions of hearts and homes and will outlive the rockets and bombs and those who mastermind their unjust and cruel deployment.
Appeals and Prayers
World Jewish Relief have launched a special appeal. Paul Anticoni writes:
World Jewish Relief has been supporting Jewish communities across Ukraine for over 20 years. Our 29 partners are rooted within local communities. Our support provides daily help to almost 10,000 Jewish elderly, to those looking for work, to families living in poverty. We saw in 2014 the displacement of over a million Ukrainians who fled the conflict. World Jewish Relief and its partners in 2014 then helped provide emergency support, accommodation and longer-term assistance for thousands…
For details and to donate click here.
Masorti Olami, which supports Masorti congregations across the world, is also appealing for our direct help. They write:
We are in close contact with our communities in Kyiv, Chernivtsi, Odessa, Kharkov and Dnipro who report that they are currently safe and at home, but are worried about the future and are in a state of uncertainty, not sure when an invasion could occur or how it would play out. They have conveyed to us their current fears and needs and we have created this campaign, calling on the assistance of our supporters around the world, to help them.
A Prayer for the Ukraine can be found here.