Ukraine Needs Our Help

March 4, 2022

I wanted to start off this week’s newsletter with a huge thank you to everyone who responded to last week’s column. Thank you to everyone who generously donated to theUkraine Crisis Campaign, and to those who reached out to see if there were other ways to support those in need.

Also, regarding last week’s column, I received a note from a reader who was unfortunately very offended that the request was specifically directed to help support Ukrainian Jews. I empathize with his perspective yet offer an alternative view to why the Jewish Federation continues to focus its request in this manner.

As a lifelong Jewish communal professional, as the CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, and as the grandson of two Holocaust survivors, one who lost every member of her family in Europe during the Holocaust and the other who left his family and home in Ukraine at the age of 14, I unapologetically call on all Jews to do whatever they can to not lose one more Jewish life!

For those not familiar with Ukrainian Holocaust history, “Between 1941 and 1943, the Nazis shot between 70,000 and 100,000 people at Babyn Yar [the cemetery and memorial site hit by Russian missiles this week], including almost the entire Jewish population of Kyiv, making it a significant point on the devastating map of the Holocaust.” (Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center)

Jews make up less than 0.2% of the population of the world. And as such, I do not believe that it is unreasonable to ask members of this 0.2% to concentrate their efforts on their fellow 0.2% in dire need at these times.

This does not mean that I, and others like me, do not care deeply about the life of every refugee, every Ukrainian, and even every Russian soldier questioning their orders from their superiors. Our great sage Hillel is quoted in Pirke Avot (“Ethics of our Fathers”) as saying:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

And when I am only for myself, what am I?

And if not now, then when? (1:14)

The money raised through this Crisis Campaign is not solely taking care of Jews in Ukraine. Although directed to the local Jewish emergency and social service organizations in Ukraine and bordering cities in Poland, the fact is that tens of thousands of other refugees are benefitting from the monies raised and distributed through these frontline Jewish organizations.

The Jewish Federations of North America, our local Jewish Federation’s umbrella organization, has committed to raising $20M to this effort, and the Jewish community of San Antonio’s proportional share of this commitment is $39,000. I am incredibly proud to share that to supplement the monies already raised, the San Antonio Bar Yadin family has pledged $18,000 as a matching grant to encourage others in the community to join them in contributing to these efforts. Every dollar raised up to $18,000 will be matched 1:1, thereby DOUBLING your gift.

At the conclusion of this week’s Torah portion, Pekudei, because we also conclude the reading of the Book of Exodus, we recite the words chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek (“Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened”). There are no better words for us to be reciting at this time. Please consider making any donation possible to this desperately needed Crisis Campaign because we are…


Shabbat shalom,