Torah Fund Stands With Israel: An Outstanding Program

Posted on Jun 21, 2022

For our continuing series, Torah Fund Stands With Israel, we were fortunate to have two compelling, interesting, and informative speakers at our most recent event held May 22. 

A Tale of Two Letters: From Holocaust to Rebirth 

Rabbi David Golinkin, President of the Schechter Institutes, provided a thought-provoking d’var Torah. He spoke about two letters and their significance: one written by his grandfather in 1938 and one by his father in 1951. His grandfather, as rabbi of Danzig, desperately wrote to the head of the Bet Din in Australia in 1938, noting the hatred in Europe for Jews and asking for help and the specific requirements for the Jewish community to enter Australia. He expressed the anguish of trying to find homes for his people with nowhere to go. As a much happier contrast, Rabbi Golinkin told us of a letter his father wrote in 1951 in Yiddish, enclosing the first Israel bond, never cashed, as a gift to his cousin for the occasion of his first birthday. He emphasized that now there is a place to go, a country to help, and a miracle to Jews throughout the world. 

Rabbi Golinkin then proudly told us what Israel is doing to help the people of Ukraine. Jews in Ukraine and Russia can come to Israel, even temporarily. Israel set up a field hospital in Lviv and through Midreshet Schechter, synagogues, schools, camps ,and family camps have operated in Ukraine. Through a refugee agency, food, money, transportation, airplane tickets, and even Purim and Pesah celebrations have been provided, with over $200,000 spent. Israel, our spiritual and actual home is there to provide help, so that a letter like that written in 1938 by Rabbi Golinkin’s grandfather can really be “never again.” 

“I Did Something!” 

Our featured speaker was Alexandra (“Alex”) Ben Ari, a cadet in the Israel embassy, formerly stationed in Kyiv, now in Poland. She explained that even with experience and training, nothing prepared her for the horrors of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Her job was to help convince the Israeli community to return to Israel. There was frustration and desperation that documents had not been updated, and the recognition that she has no superpowers. Help was provided to everyone, not just Israelis. A further complication is that there are many surrogate mothers in Ukraine because they are healthy, supervised by the embassy, and well treated. However, the infants born cannot be taken out of Ukraine immediately and documentation must be expedited.   

Alex shared some colorful details of recent experiences. She observed that refugees had fancy designer bags and shoes, but their whole lives were in those bags. Many people wanted to take their pets, and one woman had 44 pitbull dogs. An 18-year-old woman, 36 weeks pregnant, needed four organizations to get her to Israel to give birth, and she succeeded. Israel provided seven planes with supplies, including generators, and set up a field hospital in a school for six weeks, providing maternity and pediatric care, therapy, and medical services. Programs–including documentation, volunteer coordination, cultural events, economic forums, trauma (even how to give birth by oneself!)–were arranged. Alex explained that the staff of the embassy of Israel were some of the last diplomatic corps to leave Ukraine during the height of the early days of fighting, and she shared her pride in what Israel has accomplished. When asked why she does what she does, she responded, “I can tell my children and grandchildren I did something. I didn’t sit back and do nothing.” Alex, completing her stay with the Ukraine mission, will next be posted in Serbia. 

Please join us for the next Torah Fund Stands With Israel program that will be held in the fall. 

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