5 min read
Help provide needed equipment and resources to Jewish soldiers fighting in the Ukraine, and aid to Jews trying to evacuate.
Last week’s news of Russian tanks and cruise missiles ruthlessly breaking their way into Ukraine, sparking a modern-day war affecting millions, was numbing. Due to my part-time obligation as a contributor at @JewishBreakingNews – the largest Jewish news outlet on Instagram – I immediately kicked into high gear to report on the unfolding conflict.
Growing up speaking Russian and attending a synagogue made up of Jews from the former Soviet Union in Chicago, I have always felt a very strong connection to my ancestral roots. In the summer of 2019, I traveled with my father to his birthplace, Kyiv, Ukraine. Seeing the place where my father spent his childhood was very meaningful.
My trip to Ukraine revealed just how “Jewish” and “normal” of a country it is, (an estimated 40,000-200,000 Jews still live in Ukraine). Kyiv’s Jewish community dates back hundreds of years and contains countless Jewish historical sites including Babi Yar, the site of a Nazi massacre which killed upwards of 33,000 Jews.
The author where he is currently learning at Aish in Israel
In the late 1980s, Rabbi Yaakov Bleich, the current Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, moved from the United States to Kyiv. He quickly picked up the local language and culture, created programming in local synagogues and started a Jewish school for young boys and girls. My father and uncle were some of Rabbi Bleich’s early students, which sparked their first connection to Judaism, something which is inextricably linked to making me who I am today.
Today, that same community is facing a particularly precarious situation in a war-torn country, especially because the aggressor is haphazardly attacking civilian neighborhoods and infrastructure. Families with elderly grandparents and young children living throughout Ukraine are forced to brace for a complete evacuation of their homes.
The Jewish population of Ukraine is vast and the evacuation of Jewish families in the capital (Kyiv) is an expensive logistical nightmare. So as soon as Putin’s invasion began, Rabbi Bleich immediately got to work organizing a mass evacuation of Jews from across the country and has started a crowdfunding campaign to support the life-saving efforts.
Asher (long white beard) and David Cherkasskiy, Ukrainian special forces.
Busloads of Jewish families scrambled to pack as much as they could, only to be met with bursts of gunfire from both directions when first trying to leave the outskirts of Kyiv. After waiting the night, the group hit the road again, but due to roadblocks and sabotaged bridges – to prevent access to Russian tanks – journeys to the West which normally took 5 to 6 hours, are taking 18.
As soon as I heard about the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine’s fundraiser for the Jews of Ukraine, a community that my father could have still been living in, I realized I could use @JewishBreakingNews’s platform of over 100,000 Jews worldwide to raise additional funds. The single post raised tens of thousands to help fund resources and transportation for the many Jews still trying to escape.
Yaakov Dovid, fighting in the Ukraine
The next day news broke about a Jewish soldier from Kyiv, 28-year-old Yaakov Dovid, who attended Rabbi Bleich’s school. He previously served in the IDF and is now fighting on the frontlines in the Ukraine.
A few hours later, I was informed of two more Jewish Ukrainian soldiers, David and his father Asher Cherkasskiy, who are actively defending the city of Dnipro. I reached out to both Yaakov Dovid and David Cherkasskiy on WhatsApp. They divulged details of their very dire situation on the front lines describing a severe lack of resources (food, medicine, clothes, etc.) including a major deficit of defensive gear. These soldiers are heroes risking their lives to defend their family and others who cannot leave Ukraine.
As a student at Aish’s incredible Gesher program in Jerusalem, I have been instilled with the responsibility to help our fellow Jews. After hearing the plights of these Jewish soldiers, I could not comfortably continue on with my day.
E. D. Dvir, another longtime @JewishBreakingNews contributor, suggested making an additional campaign to provide resources and defensive equipment for these soldiers. So I reached out to Rabbi Bleich’s son, Avrohom Bleich, who created a new team page on our behalf to “Help Save Jewish Soldiers in Ukraine”.
Using social media, it only took a few clicks to spread the word on the campaign to over 100,000 followers, and within 24 hours the campaign to provide critical support amassed over $20,000 at the time of this writing.
In the words of Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi, “It has never been so easy to save Jewish lives since World War II.” More funds are needed and I am honored to be able to share this opportunity with you (see the donation link at the bottom).
I pray this needless conflict ends soon and that accountability is brought upon those who are responsible for the unspeakable damage and loss of life.
Click here to donate to the campaign fighting to help save the lives of Jewish soldiers in Ukraine: https://charidy.com/helpkyiv/JBN