Our thoughts turn to the people of Ukraine and especially the 200,000 or so Jews who live in that country. Many of us can trace our ancestry back to what is today Ukraine, which was the heartland of the rise of Hassidism. The Hassidic dynasties like Bratzlav, Skver, Bobov, Chernobyl, Belz, and Munkacz all originated in what is today Ukraine. Uman, Ukraine, is a focus of Hassidic pilgrimage every year during the High Holidays as the burial place of Reb Nachman of Bratzlav.
While Russian dictator Vladimir Putin claims that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was prompted by a desire to “denazifi” the country, Ukrainian President Volodymy Zelensky is Jewish and Ukraine is the only country other than Israel to simultaneously have had a Jewish President and a Jewish Prime Minister (Volodomyr Groysman who was Prime Minister from April 2016 to August 2019).
As you might know our congregant Joel Wasserman, son of Robert and Lori Wasserman, has been living and working in Ukraine for the last few years. He relocated from Kyiv to Lviv some weeks ago and has become something of a go-to for Western journalists as an American in Ukraine who is fluent in both Ukrainian and Russian. As of this writing Joel is OK and his Ukrainian girlfriend is on her way out of Kyiv to the Carpathian Mountains. Joel recorded and posted a video this morning with his impressions of what’s going on and if you are interested you can watch it here.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington has established a Ukraine Emergency Fund to meet emergency humanitarian needs. You can find out more and donate here.
The Masorti Movement, which unites Conservative Jewish communities throughout the world, has been very active in Ukraine for quite some time. A prayer for peace in Ukraine is available here in both Hebrew and English.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at email@example.com or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian