Chabad Shluchim: the Jewish people’s Heroes in Ukraine



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    Chabad Shluchim: the Jewish people’s Heroes in Ukraine

    “There are 35,000 Jews in Odesa. We are responsible for their lives, they turn to us and ask us for help. There are 120 orphans here in the Chabad orphanage, a dorm with 140 Jewish students from all over Ukraine, nursing home with 50 Holocaust survivors, most of whom suffer from dementia. I cannot even think about the option of not feeding them or providing them with water or not protecting them” • Full Story

    Sara Ha’etzni Cohen/Israel Hayom

    Although we usually think of angels as dressed in white, in Ukraine, they are dressed in black. Amid the war, the Chabad emissaries – or “shlichim” as they call themselves – have become the Foreign and Welfare ministries for the Jewish people.

    The truth is they are like that year-round, with Chabad houses established globally, providing a Jewish and Israeli spark around the world.

    Chabad is one of the most important players in this war. The emissaries appear in all their glory and devotion. Over 140 such shlichim are stationed in Ukraine. Most of them hold American or Israeli citizenships and could have left before the incursion, fleeing to the Land of Opportunity or the Holy Land. Instead, they chose to stay.

    Why? When Rabbi Avraham Wolff, the chief rabbi of Odesa, was asked this question he replied, “There are 35,000 Jews in Odesa. We are responsible for their lives, they turn to us and ask us for help. There are 120 orphans here in the Chabad orphanage, a dorm with 140 Jewish students from all over Ukraine, nursing home with 50 Holocaust survivors, most of whom suffer from dementia. I cannot even think about the option of not feeding them or providing them with water or not protecting them.”

    They stayed in Kyiv, Odesa, Lviv, and Kharkiv. They stayed.

    Mendel, a Chabad shaliach in Kharkiv, said “We are the only ones left here, and are trying in every possible way [to be of help]. Over 100 people are now located in the synagogue,” whom we try to help flee.

    But Mendel? He stays. He is an emissary, an emissary of the Jewish people. Chabad reaches out to all Jews, protecting them, feeding them, providing them with medical care. In a perfect world, this would be the task of the Jewish Agency or the World Zionist Organization. But in this terrible scenario, they remain in the background as supporting actors.

    We should remember this in Israel as well, including in peaceful times. We should practice patience and empathy and react with a smile and willingness when Chabad members approach us in the street, offering to don tefillin. Unconditional love. And our politicians must cultivate patience as well.

    Just last year, then-Opposition Leader Yair Lapid threatened there would be no more Chabad menorahs stationed around the world on Hanukkah, saying their “story about loving Israel is over.” And yet, Chabad continued in their tradition, without harboring resentment toward the lawmaker, because that is who they are.

    Avraham, Mendel, Yosef, Chaya, and Devorah are staying in Ukraine, because “somebody has to, the captain has to stay on the ship.”

    What can we do to help them? Wolf asked for neither food nor money, just urged world Jewry to read a Psalm for their wellbeing.

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    Chabad Shluchim: the Jewish people’s Heroes in Ukraine



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