Then there comes a day, when snow
Begins to melt, and peasants go
To sharpen ploughshares, and to plough,
And to will their files, and sow.
And as from forge or field they come,
With horse and cart returning home,
Meeting on the way, they chat
Of many things, of this, and that.
Of how the spring will soon arrive,
And village gossip–who will wive,
And who has died, and who was born,
And what will be the price of corn.
-Der Nister (b. Berdichev, 1884)
What is happening in Ukraine is heartbreaking. Whether we trace our family histories to the region, feel a kinship with the Jewish communities there now, or are simply horrified to see our fellow humans suffering and assaulted, our hearts go out to Ukraine. As do our donations and our prayers.
Ukraine and its Jewish community have seen many hardships and tragedies. Among the areas affected by the war is Babi Yar, the site of a Nazi massacre. Such an atrocity reminds us of the horrible human toll of hatred and how utterly awful war is.
As we often do, we learn from the words and wisdom of our ancestors. Many important Yiddish writers came from Ukraine. Der Nistor (The Hidden One) wrote of hardship, but also of hope. And this is one more thing we can give to the people of Ukraine. Not only will our money and support help them, but our hope as well. This is a season of holidays of hope. Purim is here and with it, a story of human triumph. God is not mentioned in the Megillah. Instead, we focus on Esther, whose name means “hidden.” Not only did she hide her identity, but God is hidden, too – allowing for Esther to emerge as the heroine.
After Purim, we anticipate Passover. Passover is a story of God’s deliverance – and our role in it. We learn the power of deliverance and that at times, we are not in control of our own destinies. Part of our observance is thinking of those who are not free, and those who face persecution. We begin by thinking of our own enslavement and conclude by celebrating freedom.
These two holidays are made even more meaningful this year because we see that the work of building a free world is still ongoing. May we continue to offer what we have, whether monetary, or spiritual, and help to bring light, gladness, and peace to everyone, speedily, and in our days.
Rabbi Benjamin Zober
If you would like to donate to help the people of Ukraine:
- The World Union for Progressive Judaism has established a Ukraine Crisis Fund.
- The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) is working with its partner, Right 2 Protection, a long-time partner on the ground in Ukraine, and is exploring partnerships with neighboring communities and organizations.
- Jewish Nevada is collecting funds for JDC (Joint Distribution Committee).