As the news from Kiev, Ukraine worsens and grows more violent, we spoke this morning with our Masorti/Conservative Rabbi Reuven Stamov and his wife Lena who are in Israel for a short visit. Their two young daughters are still in Ukraine but are staying with their grandmother outside of the city.
As of Thursday morning, 28 people had been killed and almost 250 hospitalized following the breaking of the barricades by Ukrainian authorities. The protestors have refused to capitulate to government demands and recent attempts at a truce have not held. The dispute began between the opposition and the current President Yanukovych over a trade pact with the EU but has since escalated into an Russia/EU divide.
The Masorti Kehillah Center is only 2 metro stops away from the violent protests at Independence Square. According to Reuven, they can hear everything, see the fires and smell the smoke that comes from only a 20 minute walk away. All of Kiev is scared to leave their homes and send their kids to school. At night, there are no street lights making a bad situation even worse. People are stocking up on food, buying at least a 2 weeks supply in anticipation of rioting or shortages. The entire Jewish community is working together to safeguard their schools, synagogues and centers.
On a previous Shabbat, there was a general panic in the city and some people called for not holding services. But, according to Rabbi Stamov, the majority of people wanted to come together as a community even amidst the crisis.
Is anti-semitism part of the opposition? According to Reuven and Lena, anti-semitism is indeed alive and well in Kiev but not as official government or protest policy. However, the government doesn't have the time or money to try and combat incidents of anti-semitism from people who are taking advantage of the overall chaos. A neighbor of the Stamov family received a coarsely worded note informing her that because she was a Jew, she needed to leave Kiev. Yet another reason, people are afraid to leave their homes.
The Stamovs are not sure what will be happening when they return next week but they don't have plans to close or cancel their many synagogue activities. They are already gearing up for a fun Purim which last year included a carnival and a funny dramatic reenactment of Megillat Esther. All they need is to find a safe place to celebrate another historic occasion of Jews eluding danger and being welcomed in a strange land.
Purim Appeal: Support our Kehilla in Kiev
In light of the difficult events in Kiev, Masorti Olami is launching a Purim Appeal with all proceeds going to our Masorti Kehilla in Kiev. The Kehilla Masoret Kiev is supported by Masorti Olami and by Midreshet Yerushalayim at the Schechter Institute. Funds are limited and the kehilla is in immediate need of a sophisticated security system that will enable them to feel safe in their space.
We will also be raising funds to purchase food for the homebound and elderly, medicines and anything else that the kehilla needs to insure the well being and safety of their community.
We need your help to treat the children to a day of fun outside of the city. Toys and treats for mishloach manot will be provided as well to make sure that smiles abound on Purim!
Help us support our kehilla in Kiev by clicking here. Be sure to mark Purim Appeal in the dedication box.
Rabbi Tzvi Graetz
Executive Director, Masorti Olami & MERCAZ Olami
Rabbi Mark Cooper presenting Rabbi Tzvi Graetz with a Megillat Esther for Kiev this week. The Megillah was a gift from Rabbi Cooper, Rabbi Stephen Stern and Rabbi Benjamin Adler.