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Help borne out of helplessness

Unable to assist Ukrainians on the ground, Edgware and Hendon Reform synagogue chose to walk in their shoes

Brigit Grant is the Jewish News Supplements Editor

The British Jewish community’s response to the Ukraine crisis has been constant and effectual – albeit away from the main stage.

World Jewish Relief (WJR) has always been invested in Eastern Europe and in Ukraine it is at the fore of mobilising and coordinating urgent humanitarian relief operations as well as practical support for refugees on the ground in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

Signing up with WJR and other charities to host families has been a key response by the community, and though fewer invitations have been accepted than expected, hosts remain on the lists.

Realising that the most productive thing to do is to donate money, synagogues have been organising their own fundraisers and Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue decided that ‘walking in the shoes’ of Ukrainians was an inspired way to show support. So more than 50 members aged eight to 80 did a sponsored walk in aid of World Jewish Relief’s and the World Union for Progressive Judaism’s humanitarian and community supporting appeals.

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith

Armed with banners, the walkers were led by Rabbis Mark Goldsmith and Debbie Young-Somers and stopped at the half-way mark to hear live from Rabbi Tanya Sakhnovitch at the Ec Chayim Reform Synagogue in Warsaw. Born in Minsk, Belarus, and currently minister at the Liberal Synagogue Elstree, Rabbi Tanya had been in Kyiv with her family with other Ukrainians to Poland in the early days of the conflict.

Celebrating their fundraiser with a Ukrainian buffet, Rabbi Goldsmith spoke of Londoners’ “sense of helplessness” at being able to do so little to make a difference since Putin’s invasion on 24 February.

“That is why our event, Walk an Hour in their Shoes felt so powerful and it follows a Shabbat service with Rabbi Alex Dukhovny who is sheltering in a Kyiv basement.”

Rabbi Goldsmith also spoke about the importance of social media: “So we could share the fearsome experiences of Rabbi Julia Gris the Rabbi of our twin community in Odessa, who had to walk 50km with her daughter to make it to the Polish border. As Jews we know the pain of displacement and our hearts and prayers are with all the people of Ukraine.”

 

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