Lighting a Third Shabbat Candle for Ukraine

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We were there from the start. One year ago tomorrow the war in Ukraine began. Immediately, the Jewish Federation, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and their partners mobilized to deliver lifesaving aid and care for tens of thousands of Jews and their neighbors in and outside of Ukraine.

As the humanitarian crisis grew, our support never wavered. Over the course of the year, we have:

  • Continued life-saving services (food, medicine, and homecare) for more than 43,000 Jews in Ukraine, including poor, elderly, and newly impoverished Jews.
  • Evacuated over 13,000 Jews from Ukraine, including 170 medical evacuations of frail and sick elderly.
  • Aided over 40,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing to neighboring countries at border crossings, supplying vital necessities such as food, medicine, shelter, and guidance, in partnership with European Jewish communities.
  • And so much more.

The needs continue to grow as the war rages on. And we will continue to be there to help in any way we can – long after the story begins to fade from the headlines.

In fact, leaders from Jewish Cleveland were recently in Moldova to listen to those in need, to lend support, and to reinforce our commitment to helping in any way we can. The stories they heard from refugees were filled with the same intense pain, trauma, loss, and separation from loved ones that were told at the outset of the war.

Sadly, there are more stories like this to come. So, when we light the candles this Friday night in our homes or synagogues, let us light three candles instead of two – the extra candle for those in Ukraine who are without light or fuel; for whom rolling blackouts have darkened their cities and towns; and for those who are suffering from loss and separation from their loved ones.

And as we light this candle, let us commit to continue to take action for them – delivering the lifesaving help and support they need to endure these difficult times. Because as Jewish Clevelanders, that’s who we are. We cared about you yesterday, so we care about you today and we will care about you tomorrow.

This commitment also holds true for the people of Israel.

Your Federation has a deep and abiding love for Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. And while our work in Israel is strictly humanitarian – focused on social services and education – we are not blind to the current unsettled political landscape there, nor deaf to the concerns of many. It is because of this commitment to the country and to Jewish people everywhere that we endorsed an open letter to the Israeli government from the Jewish Federations of North America. You may read a copy of it here.

As we mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine, we wish you and your family – here, in Ukraine, Israel and throughout the world – a peaceful Shabbat. May the light and warmth of the third candle reach all those who need it most.

Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel N. Zelman
Board Chair

Erika B. Rudin-Luria

P.S. These are challenging times – for all of us in our own ways. If you or someone you know is struggling in these troubling times, please contact Access Jewish Cleveland at 216-292-4636. We are here for you.

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