A Note from the Rabbi
In Genesis 4:10, after Cain has killed his brother Abel, God says to him: ק֚וֹל דְּמֵ֣י אָחִ֔יךָ צֹעֲקִ֥ים אֵלַ֖י מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה. While most translations say something along the lines of “the sound of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground,” the Hebrew is actually in the plural. A more literal translation would be “the sound of your brother’s bloods cries out to me from the ground.” Rashi and other commentators explain that “bloods” is in the plural because when someone is murdered, it is not only their life which is snuffed out but also the lives of their future descendants.
As Jews we know this all too well. In 1939 there were an estimated 16.6 million Jews in the world. Today, 77 years after the end of the Shoah, there are an estimated 15.2 million Jews in the world. We have still not recovered from the murder of six million Jews.
For those of us who came of age right after the Shoah, the pictures which are coming out of Ukraine following the Russian withdrawal from areas that the Russian military had occupied are vivid reminders. One of our family’s best friends was herself a child survivor and religious school administrators were less concerned about “trigger warnings” and so on, so every year around Yom HaShoah the walls of our synagogue building would have pictures of piles of dead bodies and we would watch documentaries like “Night and Fog.”
The history of Jews and Ukraine is complicated. While Bogdan Khmelnytsky is held up as a Ukrainian hero for liberating Ukraine from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, he is remembered by the Jews for massacring 50,000 or so Jews during the course of his uprising. Similarly, Stepan Bandera is regarded as a hero for his struggle to liberate Ukraine from the USSR in the 1930s, but in so doing he collaborated with the Nazis.
And yet today, Ukraine has a Jewish President and is the European country with the lowest level of antisemitism according to most opinion polls. There is a thriving Jewish community there who are completely united with the rest of Ukraine in resisting the Russian aggression and seeking to maintain the country’s independence and democracy.
Our own Masorti (Conservative) movement has been active in Ukraine for decades with what was until recently a thriving network of congregations, schools, and camps. If you want to assist the worldwide Masorti effort in Ukraine and neighboring countries please give at this link.
As a reminder, 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.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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