In cities and villages all over the Ukraine, thousands of Jewish people exist in poverty. The exact numbers of Jewish people remaining in this country, which was once part of the Soviet Union, is debatable.
Estimates range from 100,000 – 500,000. No one knows for sure as many simply don’t want to be identified as Jewish and so have suppressed their official identity. A large migration to Israel has left the community populated by the elderly, sick, and impoverished. Many of them are Holocaust survivors.
The world has largely forgotten they exist, and their feelings of being forsaken have teeth. The bite of hunger, illness, and loneliness has become for many the new status quo. The words of the psalmist echo the heart cries of these people. “Oh, do not deliver the life of Your turtledove to the wild beast! Do not forget the life of Your poor forever. Have respect to the covenant; for the dark places of the earth are full of the haunts of cruelty. Oh, do not let the oppressed return ashamed! Let the poor and needy praise Your name” (Psalm 74:19–21).
God is answering their cries as He remembers His promises to the Children of Israel. “For the Lord will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance” (Psalm 94:14). He is sending Christians to help meet the needs of His people in the Ukraine.
Ludmila Bardish was born in 1937. A survivor of the Holocaust, she lives with her daughter Svieta, whose husband died; granddaughter Ira, whose husband left her; and her two small great-granddaughters, Lisa (3) and Hanah (6 months). Five precious Jewish daughters, four generations, live together and do not have enough food to eat. They would like to make aliyah (immigrate) to Israel. Unfortunately, the archive in their town burned, and some of the papers they needed are gone forever. They have some documentation, which shows that they are Jewish but not enough to get permission to move to the Land of Israel. They are stuck in the Diaspora (anywhere outside of Israel). Project Tikvah (Hope) assists them with food parcels.
Jewish people are granted automatic citizenship in Israel but must have proof of their Jewishness in order for their application to be approved. In this part of the world, which was ravaged during the Second World War and then was under the heavy hand of Communism where religion was outlawed, it is often difficult and sometimes impossible to prove Jewishness. Project Tikvah workers just visited a Jewish musician and composer Oleg Sarosielsky, who is 56. He, his wife, and two of his daughters live in Irpen, which is in the Kiev area. Oleg is well liked in the town, as he was a leader of the Jewish community. Two weeks before our visit, his house burned down because the electric installation in the adjoining house was in very poor condition. Oleg and his family are now in a desperate situation. They have thousands of stars above their heads, as they sleep outside the house on sofas, which were salvaged from the fire.
Oleg turned to the mayor of the town asking for help, but the mayor said, “When you are 80, I will give you 200 hrivnas,“ which is about US $25. It would be nice, if Oleg and his family could make aliyah to Israel. His daughters are only 25 and 23 and would have a much better future in Israel. The problem is that all the documents that could prove their Jewishness have been destroyed by the fire. Oleg and his family also receive food packages through Project Tikvah.
Each month, Bridges for Peace provides assistance for Jewish people like these families. Some 292 families receive food packages, and 400 people receive meals (once a day) in soup kitchens in Ukraine and in Siberia. We are thankful that we can reach out and alleviate some of the distress in this area. However, the needs are huge, and we are barely scratching the surface.
Stanislaw Gawel, a Polish Christian who directs the project, recently wrote me saying that we urgently need to set up 25 more soup kitchens and need to add an additional 1,000 families on the list to receive food parcels. Funds are needed for medicines. Many are ill and have the horrible choice of buying food or medicine. There is also a need for a SOS fund to meet urgent needs such as surgery, dental work, heaters, winter shoes, and clothing. The needs are overwhelming.
Let’s rise to their assistance. The Jewish people describe those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust as “righteous Gentiles.” We can be like those Christians who, in the midst of horrifying times and at great threat to themselves, reached out a hand to save a life. We don’t face the risks they did, but we, like those righteous ones, can save a Jewish life. Please pray about what the Lord would like you to give to provide food, heaters, medicine, and love. Let’s tell them they are not forgotten, and the Lord has heard their prayers. “Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).
In His Service, from Jerusalem,
Rev. Rebecca J. Brimmer
International President and CEO
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