As European War Wages, Rabbinical Emissaries on Front Lines of Refugee Response
As the winds of war continue to make their way across Ukraine and threaten many cities with large Jewish populations, Jewish organizations across the world are scrambling to implement a comprehensive response to one of the largest refugee crises in modern history. Among the agencies working on the front lines are rabbinical shlichim from the Straus-Amiel Rabbinical Emissary Program of Ohr Torah Stone.
Rabbi Zev Rubins, an emissary of the program based in Germany who also works with Jewish communities across Ukraine, says the scope of the challenge will require enlisting support from countries and communities all across the region.
“In just a matter of days we have already seen over 300,000 people pour across Ukraine’s western borders and that number grows by the thousands every hour,” he explains. “The resources currently in place are not able to handle that influx so we are already facing a desperate need for support and we have to be thinking not just about today and tomorrow but realize that in the weeks ahead these families deserve to be celebrating Purim and Pesach. We’ll need to put the tools in place to support those practical needs but as importantly raise the moral of these clearly devastated people.”
One of the program’s emissaries based in Poland, Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis, says that efforts are focused along the country’s border with Ukraine but authorities and agencies are uncertain for what lies ahead. “At the moment, we are focused on accepting refugees and then sending them to the Jewish communities in Lublin and other smaller towns that are working tirelessly to respond and our efforts are focused on getting food and transport.”
The program, with emissaries in 38 countries around the world including a sizable percentage across the European continent is beginning to plan for reallocating resources in the event that the needs continue to escalate ahead of the holidays. They are also in regular touch with the Jewish Agency on behalf of those refugees who have expressed in interest in emigrating to Israel.
“Our focus in the coming weeks is to ensure that these families, many of whom have been literally fleeing for their lives with very limited supplies, are being given what they need and understand that they have communities and people who are there to support them as much as possible,” says Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, Director of the Straus-Amiel Emissary Program. “We are also engaging our global network of emissaries to help raise funds for their fellow Jews in the affected regions as well as work with their local communities to be a part of this critical global response.”