March 3, 2022 | An Update On The Situation In Ukraine
March 3rd, 2022

An Update On The Situation In Ukraine

Together with our partners at The Schechter Institutes, we at Masorti Olami remain in close contact and continue to monitor the situation of our Masorti/Conservative communities across Ukraine. There is still extreme uncertainty and panic right now, as well as shortages of essential supplies, but we are sharing with you, our friends and supporters around the world, an update about the current situation on the ground, as of today.

We want to thank our incredible dedicated partners at The Schechter Institutes, Masorti Israel, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbinical Assembly and all of our other movement organizations who are continuing to support and share our emergency efforts in Ukraine. The response from our worldwide movement has truly been overwhelming and heartwarming. It is important that you all know that you ARE making a difference.

Within Ukraine, the situation in Kharkiv is extremely challenging. Our Kharkiv community is unable to leave the city and are instead under curfew in bunkers. The Sha'alavim Jewish Day School in Kharkiv has been transformed into a makeshift bomb shelter and children, parents and teachers are sheltering there in crowded conditions.

The Sifrei Torah of our community in Kharkiv sit in the community's makeshift bomb shelter

Kyiv has been under attack with Russian troops attacking the city and curfews in place. Many of our community members from Kyiv have managed to find refuge with our community in Chernivtsi, a city close to the Romanian and Moldovan borders, while others have managed to escape through the borders of the neighboring countries. The situation in Odessa is difficult and although some members of our Masorti/Conservative community have been able to cross the border to Moldova, many others are stuck in the long lines at the border crossing. We together with The Schechter Institutes are trying to help as much as we can with evacuation efforts. 

Our community members who have fled to Chernivtsi having a meal together

In Chernivtsi, which is now referred to as our “refugee camp”, 40-50 members of our communities including Rabbi Reuven and Lena Stamov and their family, are currently preparing to leave in the next few days to Germany via Romania. We are in the process of making the arrangements to get our communities to safety as fast as we can. We have been working closely with the JDC in Europe to prepare for the evacuation from Chernivtsi, including transport, accommodation, food, medical supplies and activities for children.

Our Masorti/Conservative community in Berlin is already preparing to welcome Ukrainian refugees, and our communities across Europe are all on standby to welcome any refugees as soon as the time comes.

Posters calling for peace in Ukraine cover the front of the Berlin Masorti school as they prepare to welcome Ukrainian refugees

What Has Been Done So Far

Working in full partnership with The Schechter Institutes, our efforts have been focused on responding to the immediate needs on the ground. Rabbi Irina Gritsevskaya, Executive Director of Midreshet Schechter, together with Tehila Reuben, Deputy Director of Masorti and MERCAZ Olami, and both of their teams, have been working tirelessly to answer the different requests coming in, as well as starting to plan for the coming weeks. We were able to organize 150 care packages for Shabbat for the children in our community in Kharkiv last Shabbat, and we are currently in the middle of putting together a “Shabbat kit” which will include translated TALI educational materials into Russian and Ukrainian, as well as “treats” for the children, to send to our communities.

We have evacuated many of our communities across Ukraine to Chernivtsi, a city which we believe is currently one of the safest places to be within the country, and are working on evacuating many more to safer places. As mentioned, we have already organized for transport from Chernivtsi across the Romanian border, and then on to Germany.

We were able to facilitate the evacuation of community members from Kyiv to Poland, who are now safely with our Masorti/Conservative community in Warsaw, Masorti Centrum Ki Tov, who immediately responded and opened their arms and met with the refugee family, taking them in, as well as many other refugees.

We have also assisted with the evacuation of a family from our community in Kyiv who managed to escape through Slovakia to Prague, where our Masorti/Conservative community in Prague took them in, meeting the family at the Prague Central Bus Station in the early hours of the morning. The family was provided with an apartment and food, thanks to the incredible help of the Jewish community of Prague, and are now in safe hands.

The refugee family from our community in Kyiv arrived in Prague yesterday, and are seen here with Rabbi Ron Hoffberg, leader of our community in Prague, who took them in

With the help of a Masorti UK community member, we have been able to provide a refugee from our Odessa community, who is head of Project Kesher in the city, with free accommodation in Bucharest, Romania where she will wait to meet with the rest of our members who will shortly be crossing into Romania from Chernivtsi.

A network of Ukrainian and Russian speaking mental health professionals has been created and made available to our Ukrainian communities, through the initiative of Rabbi Chaya Rowen Baker, rabbi of Kehillat Ramot Zion in Jerusalem, together with the Masorti/Conservative communities in Israel.

We continue to speak to communities and organizations around the world about the situation in Ukraine, sharing with them the plight of our communities, and detailing what steps are needed to help. We have joined the incredible efforts of all of our movement organizations, communities and even individuals who continue to offer help and support, in many different ways.

Those community members who have made it to Chernivtsi coming together for prayer

What Are Our Communities’ Most Urgent Needs?

The needs in Ukraine are changing and growing daily, based on the situation on the ground. We have compiled the most pressing needs that have been shared with us by our representatives in the communities in Ukraine, towards which your donations are and will be going. While it is still extremely difficult to transfer funds to those on the ground, together with our partners at The Schechter Institutes, we have found several reliable ways to get our communities the necessary funds across the borders and into Ukraine to where it is needed most.

Basic goods and supplies are needed by our communities across the country. This includes food, accommodations and sanitary products as well as protective gear and equipment. Our communities also require vitamins, medicines and medical supplies, which are in short supply in the country.

Transport and evacuation to safe communities and houses, both in western Ukraine and in neighboring European countries, as well as Israel, is needed for those who are seeking refuge. Our communities need to be evacuated to safety, via ground or air travel, and need accommodation once they reach their destinations.

Long-term support and rebuilding of our Ukrainian communities will be needed. While we deal with the most pressing needs on the ground, together with our partners, we are starting to build a plan for the “day after”, when our community members will need to rebuild their lives wherever they find themselves. We will continue to update these needs, as the situation develops.

The young people who are currently in Chernivtsi enjoy activities

Amidst The Clouds: Addressing The Crisis In Ukraine

Our partners at The Schechter Institutes have created a source sheet which we hope will be useful in your communities as you discuss current world events and ways in which you might support Ukraine including its Jewish communities. Please be in touch with us if you would like these materials translated for your community. The source sheet can be found here.

Prayer For Peace In Ukraine

On February 24, we were joined by over 1000 people online for our 'Prayer For Peace In Ukraine', organized together with our partners at The Schechter Institutes, Masorti Israel, Rabbinical Assembly, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and MERCAZ Olami. If you missed the live prayer or would like to relive it, it can be viewed here.

You can also find the special Prayer for Peace which was written for Ukraine by Masorti Israel and the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel in: EnglishFrenchHebrew and Spanish.

We again thank all of our supporters for the tremendous outpouring of chessed

The war in Ukraine is still ongoing, and our communities still need your help.

Click here to donate via Masorti Olami. Or via our partners at The Schechter Institutes, Inc. here.

Rabbi Reuven Stamov leads havdallah for refugees and local community in Chernivtsi.

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