My podcast has given me so much – and no, not in the financial sense. It’s given me a platform to have insightful conversations and hear fresh first-hand perspectives on various topics. It has challenged me and allowed me to engage with important guests worldwide. It’s also been a canvas in which I can express my creativity. I’ve spoken with Palestinian activists, Knesset members, people fighting the Taliban, you name it. Recently, I’ve been working on getting the President of Chechnya in exile and Armenian leaders from Nagorno-Karabakh, an area marked by conflict. In any event, I’m honored I created this initiative myself.
However, the thing I’m most proud of from this podcast I created is that, believe it or not, it’s had a tangible impact. Through the connections it’s made, I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to help Ukrainians seeking refuge escape the war with Russia.
Regardless of what you think of the war, if we give too much aid, whatever, I’m proud I’ve given my hand in helping others. Of course, I’m proud on a human level, but I am doubly proud because I am Jewish.
Some months ago, I posted on Reddit trying to find someone on the ground in Ukraine who was willing to be interviewed. I was no stranger to covering other conflicts, and I wanted to test my luck trying to cover the biggest news story of the year and the most significant war on the European continent since World War II. We heard of damage and destruction done by Russian forces, but I wanted to hear and share a first-hand account. Days went by, no luck.
Finally, someone replied to my post! The problem was – it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. She was an American…in Poland. It was slightly different from my previous expectations, but she had an exciting and compelling story to share. Simply put, she had created an organization that helped Ukrainians in need.
Interesting enough, I figured. So, we spoke – and within minutes, it was clear that her organization was life-changing for these families.
The organization she created is called Safe Passage 4 Ukraine. They help Ukrainians who don’t have the necessary resources fly out of Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe, at no cost. They are able to provide these free flights through donations of airline points and/or money. When we spoke, the organization had helped numerous families to safety and refuge in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere in Europe and was steadily growing.
Toward the end of our conversation, she noted that with the growing refugee crisis and the situation deteriorating, they needed a few more people than ever to handle the increasing caseload. I offered my hand and dedicated myself to the cause.
For a bit of context – according to a report by the UNHCR – “in 2022, nearly one-third of Ukrainians were forced to flee their homes. By the end of the year, an estimated 5.9 million people were internally displaced by the war, while nearly 5.7 million refugees and asylum-seekers from Ukraine were recorded across Europe. ”
Nevertheless, I began managing cases – coordinating with families stuck in the country and matching them with potential donors. Speaking with families trapped in the country while their cities were shelled was a stark reminder of the horrors of real life. I made it my mission to help them to safety. In all, I had my hand in coordinating around 40 individuals, including children and families, out of danger. We’ve helped reunite families and provide safety halfway across the world.
It has been the honor and most significant accomplishment of my life. I proudly frame thank-you notes from families on my bookshelves.
I’m not looking for a pat on the back or anything. Humans should make it our duty to help anyone in need without being applauded. When I further analyze why this is so important to me, it’s because I am staying true to Jewish values. This is an honor for me as a human, but above all, as a Jew.
We can talk ad nauseam about the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people. Our collective history has been scarred by persecution, expulsion, and genocide. We are no strangers to suffering. When I spoke to petrified families and saw images of bombed-out towns, it resonated deeply. Some 80-odd years ago, we were the ones in need.
Not only does Jewish history teach us not to stand idly by when others are facing grave peril, but Jewish ethics and morals, the laws that have sustained us for thousands of years, also play a pivotal role.
Remembering what happened to us and ensuring something catastrophic does not happen to any other group of people is not only the right but also the Jewish way. Our morals and ethics, the concept of Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world, are deeply rooted in our way of life. We’re mandated to try our best to mend and consistently improve the world and are responsible for the well-being of the world at large. Tzedakah, or charity, is another crucial element of Jewish tradition. As a young boy, I vividly remember the charity boxes on my refrigerator and my father urging me to contribute whatever spare change I had.
Compassion is a quality held in high regard. After all, we are taught it is one of the highest, if not the highest, of virtues, and we are commanded not to sit idly by while a life is in danger.
I don’t consider myself the most religious person there is, not even close. Yet these ethics, morals and our history, are deeply engrained in who I am. They constantly remind me of our shared commitment to humanity
We like to say Never Again, and we should keep screaming it until it echoes in eternity. Nobody should ever have to face such unspeakable horrors. As a collective, we must ensure these are not empty words. Let it be a call to action.