The war in Ukraine has been raging for over six months and the hostilities have taken a heavy toll on the Jewish population in the country.
At least 70 Jews lost their lives in the war, according to an estimate by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Ukraine (FJCU). About a third of the casualties were killed in Mariupol and the rest in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Bucha as well as Jewish soldiers on the battlefield.
Four hundred Jews were wounded since the war began and about 50,000 Jews were uprooted from their homes. At least 150 Jewish families lost their homes in Russian strikes. Additionally, out of Ukraine’s 180 Jewish communities, 27 of them are now living under Russian occupation.
Since the beginning of the war, the federation, together with other Jewish and Israeli bodies and organizations, has been involved in rescuing Jews from the cities on the front into the interior of the country and across the borders into neighboring countries. “We rescued 35,198 residents – most of them Jewish – from 322 locations throughout Ukraine, in close coordination with the Ukrainian army,” said Alina Teplitsky, the director of the FJCU.
“Most of the people we rescued are Jewish, but we helped everyone who asked, also non-Jews – we saved as many lives as we could. The rescue operations, some of which were very complex and life-threatening, were carried out using trains, on which we paid for all the seats, buses, and taxis.”
Rav Rafael Rotman of the federation said: “Every month we deliver food packages to 36,000 families via 180 distribution centers throughout Ukraine. Non-Jewish families who contact us also receive assistance. The cost of each package is about 100 euros and includes 4 boxes with water, hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, and even detergent, fish, oil, flour, canned goods, sugar, salt, honey, coffee, tea, and other basic products. About 900 tons of products are packed by our hundreds of volunteers and employees and sent by trucks all over the country.”
The cost of the operation has so far reached $21 million, most of which has been spent on humanitarian aid, a considerable amount on rescue operations, as well as maintenance of refugee camps.
Chabad shaliach and chairman of the federation Rav Meir Stambler added: “This isn’t a time when we’re worrying about costs and financial calculations but rather saving lives – and every minute is critical. The Rabbanim, Chabad shlichim, and federation employees are busy 24/7 and the humanitarian situation is getting worse. The worst part right now is that the world is gradually starting to forget what we’re going through here and the news from Ukraine is being pushed to the sidelines. We daven that peace will come soon and that the nevuah will be fulfilled ‘and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.'”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)