Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin Is Now A Site For Jewish Refugees

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Ukrainian refugees this week at the border with Poland in Medyka. (Photo: Hilik Magnus/Passport Card)

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Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, established in 1939 by HaGaon HaRav Meir Shapiro, is now housing Ukrainian Jewish refugees, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“We have about 190 beds in Lublin,” American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) director in Poland Karina Sokolowska said Monday. “Some are regular hotel rooms, but we also have large halls in the building where we put many mattresses on the floor.”

Since there are no hotel rooms available for refugees in Warsaw, Sokolowska said they had to find varous spaces across Poland, including in private homes. “Almost anyone I know in the Jewish community is hosting a Ukrainian family,” she said.

“People come to us in shock – they escaped a war,” she said. “Up until now, we didn’t have any element of therapy for the refugees. But we now have psychologists on the way to Poland to assist us in this terrible situation.”

“Until 12 days ago, my job was to promote Jewish education and culture in Poland. But now, I am dealing with a whole different world. I never thought I would need to run a huge operation for Jewish refugees – definitely not in Poland.”

“Sometimes we cannot give them a place to stay immediately,” she said. “Sometimes they are told to be picked up in another four hours from the border. In the meantime, they don’t show up since they may have found another person or organization to help them out.”

“They do not know what to do,” she added. “They are literally lost in the incident. Our focus is on Jews crossing the border. This is a huge operation.”

“I’m anxious that suddenly two buses will arrive from Dnipro with Jewish refugees,” she said. “We’re working on finding another location in order to make sure we have enough space.”

“Nothing will be the same in my life after this situation” Sokolowska said tearfully. “This tragedy is so intense. It’s bad. What’s going on in Ukraine is terrible.”

Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin operated until the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. The Nazis burned the contents of the yeshivah’s huge Beis Medrash in the town square to the sound of festive music and the building became the regional headquarters of the German Military Police. After the war, the property was taken over by the Polish state as an abandoned possession and was transferred to the Medical University of Lublin.

The yeshivah was returned to the Jewish community of Warsaw after a law was passed in 1997 mandating the restitution of Jewish communal property to the Jewish community. The building was renovated and its shul, the first to be entirely renovated by the Jewish community of Poland since World War II, was reopened on February 11, 2007.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)