U.S. rabbis travel to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees

Religion

Three American Rabbis went to Poland to give humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees.

(NewsNation) — Three U.S. rabbis in April traveled to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees, bringing them supplies, money and even holding a Passover seder for those so far from home.

Rabbi Jon Cutler said he and fellow religious leaders Gregory Marx and David Levin were “driven by their faith” to take the journey.

Making it even more meaningful to them was that they were in Krakow, which is only an hour away from the Auschwitz concentration camp used in the Holocaust.

“One of the famous survivors of Auschwitz, Elie Wiesel, wrote that there may be times when we were powerless to prevent injustice. But there must never be a time when we fail to protest,'” Cutler said. “We needed to go, and this time be a voice for those who are victims.”

For the three rabbis, it was important to be a witness and show others in the U.S. what was happening.

Upon their arrival, the rabbis saw Ukrainian refugees living with Polish residents, or in quarters set up by different organizations. In many cases, they saw women and children cross the border with nothing but a bag of clothing, while the men in their lives stayed back to fight in the war.

“It just struck me— the personal pain of being a refugee, of seeing someone going into their home that was destroyed, collecting whatever they could, shoving it into a garbage bag, and then crossing the border,” Marx said. “It was heartbreaking to see.”

When watching or reading news about the Russia-Ukraine War, there’s a tendency to think of it in terms of numbers or military movements, Marx said. People fail to remember this is a personal story, he said.

“There are people personally impacted with this, not only losing the lives of loved ones, but having to literally begin again,” Marx said. “There’s nothing to return to….There’s no home left for these people. And that left me personally scarred and, to a certain level, even though I was looking at it from the outside, significantly traumatized.”

Even though the trip itself was harrowing, there were still glimmers of hope the rabbis experienced.

When speaking to the community about their plans, Levin said the three were “overwhelmed” by how much support they received.

“Communities stepped up in a huge way, in terms of material as well as money,” Levin said. “We all traveled over with bags that were filled with supplies that our people freely gave, and we also came over with a bunch of cash, which was also desperately needed in order to continue to fund the operations on the ground in Krakow. That’s beautiful.”


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