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Ukraine and Jewish Peoplehood

Jews never feel as much of a “people” as when we are faced with a crisis. For weeks before the Russian invasion, Jewish organizations around the globe were mobilizing to support the Jewish community in Ukraine. These days we are not in competition, rather we are united in our efforts to help our people survive in an unimaginable situation of war.

There is no right or left in this situation. There are no political sides. There is just support and rescue. Around the world, Jews are listening to reports of the offensive attack by the Russians into the sovereign nation of Ukraine. Even before this war, Ukraine was suffering from Covid-19 and economic inflation. Now the JDC, formally known as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, is working with JFNA, JAFI, World ORT, Chabad and many other Jewish organizations to help ensure the remaining Jews in Ukraine live through this terrible and trying ordeal.

Many of the Jews in Ukraine are elderly, some are survivors, and they are subsisting on meager state subsidies along with subsidies and support from the JDC and other Jewish organizations abroad. When our family is in need, we come together. This current crisis exemplifies what we, as a People do best. We are there for one another.

This morning I was on an emergency call with the JDC. I was notified of the call by our Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest. We heard directly from Stefan Oscar, the executive director for Former Soviet Union Operations of the JDC. He explained the dire situation many in the Jewish community are experiencing. The worst situation is for our elderly, homebound Jewish seniors. These senior citizens live in poverty and survive on very meager provisions, some provided by the State, but most provided by the local JDC staff. With bombings occurring and many of the support staff trying to stay safe by going into their basements, or into the subway stations that are below ground, since they do not have bomb shelters are seniors are at great risk. The JDC staff are facing extreme challenges getting to the seniors they normally service. This has created a very difficult situation on the ground. The local staff remains committed to their jobs and their supporting roles to keep these elderly Jews safe, fed, medically sound and supported with mental health services. During a time of war, this becomes increasingly difficult.

One important point that Oscar noted was that there is a “spirit of coordination of all agencies” providing help. He told us what is remarkable about the global Jewish world, “in time of crisis, we are all one people”. That fact told to over 500 concerned American Jews on the call, spoke to an undeniable reality, Jews support Jews. We need to support one another. As the Talmud states, “Kol Yisrael Arevim, Zeh BaZeh”, we are all responsible for one another. In this time of great need, we are not arguing with one another. We are not in competition with one another. We are united in providing as much aid as necessary to help, support and rescue the Jews in need in Ukraine. That’s who we are as a People. The Jewish People take care of each other.

I support many different Jewish Organizations. I am a life member of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America and on the national board. I work with the Simon Wiesenthal Center against antisemitism. I donate to the American Zionist Movement, Combat Antisemitism Movement and many more. They are all sending updates in support of the Jewish community in Ukraine and against the Russian invasion. We need to recognize that together we are strong. We need to remember that we are better when we are representing ourselves as one People, and soulfully follow that precept of “Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh BaZeh”. We are the best, when we are working together for our People.

About the Author
Stephanie Z. Bonder is a proud "Jersey Girl" raised in the beautiful Garden State of NJ. She developed her deep love for Israel when her father shared his Zionism with her when she was a little girl. The family first went to Israel for her bat mitzvah and from there her Zionism grew. In college, Stephanie studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for her junior year abroad and from then on committed herself to returning to Israel as often as possible. Stephanie has dedicated her life to teaching children in both secular and religious schools. In her volunteer hours, she is part of a 5 generation life member family of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America where she currently is a member of the National Board. Stephanie continues to educate teens and adults on Jewish Peoplehood, Zionism and current events in Israel through her involvement with the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest and her synagogue, Congregation Agudath Israel. All of her blogs are her own personal opinions and do not represent the organizations with which she is affiliated.
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