As we enter a second Shabbat since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we are focused on the devastating humanitarian crisis unfolding there.
With more than a million refugees so far, the mass exodus is frighteningly reminiscent of the refugee crisis across Europe during World War II. At the same time, the situation for those remaining in Ukraine is dire, with Russia indiscriminately attacking civilian areas.
B’nai B’rith International, B’nai B’rith Europe, B’nai B’rith UK, B’nai B’rith in Italy and in Germany are mobilizing to help with immediate essentials as well as long-term needs for the Ukrainian people.
On March 1, we were briefed about the situation on the ground by two Ukrainians. They both described the conditions in the cities and towns: Dark and cold homes, sheltering in subways, food and fuel scarcities, not enough munitions. These were chilling, real-time accounts.
Ukraine was a center of Jewish life in Europe for centuries, even as the history of the Jewish people in Ukraine is fraught with tragedy and filled with accomplishment. The Babyn Yar memorial—which was damaged on March 2 by Russian strikes on a neighboring TV tower—stands as witness to the 33,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis in Ukraine.
The trans-Atlantic alliance’s unity in condemning Russia is a welcome and important show of solidarity. In addition, major retailers are closing their stores in Russia. Movie studios are holding off releasing films there. The Paralympics have banned Russian athletes and international soccer is banning Russian teams from competition at the highest levels. Even individual bar and liquor store owners around the world are refusing to sell Russian vodka. These global actions from so many disparate industries demonstrate a unified sense of purpose unmatched in recent memory.
Ukraine’s Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is a true hero—sometimes described as a modern-day Maccabi. His strong defiance against Russia demonstrates a personal bravery that should be a point of pride for all Jews.
Our efforts to help the people of Ukraine will not falter. Help us meet these needs today. Our Ukraine Assistance Fund is open. Please donate here.
With hopes for peace on our minds, Shabbat Shalom.
Seth J. Riklin, B’nai B’rith International President Daniel S. Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith CEO