NEW YORK — Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, senior rabbi at Manhattan’s Stephen Wise Free Synagogue (SWFS), will be leading a humanitarian mission April 24–28 to the Poland-Ukraine border that will include the delivery of critical supplies, funds and a coordinated effort aimed at providing emotional support to Ukrainian refugees.
“For weeks, we have sat at home and watched the Russian military mauling millions of innocent civilians in an unprovoked, unjustified, unconscionable, unrestrained, merciless and savage invasion, and I confess that I am inexpressibly frustrated by simply watching,” Rabbi Hirsch told his congregation in a recent sermon. “I want us to be messengers of mercy, coworkers of kindness, consolation and comfort, representing and expressing the best of Jewish tradition.”
“I want you to leave New York for five days and bring duffle bags of supplies, money and most important of all, your warmth, your compassion, your humanity to Ukrainians who have lost everything,” Rabbi Hirsch said. “Jews have a special obligation to protect the weak. We are a refugee people. We know what it feels like to be uprooted.”
In addition to providing support on the ground, collaborating with humanitarian aid workers and visiting field hospitals, the group of some 25 SWFS members will meet with Israeli emissaries working to resettle Ukrainian Jews in Israel, receive briefings from diplomats and subject-matter experts in Warsaw, and hold discussions with Jewish community leaders centered around gaining a better understanding of the political, social, economic and military challenges.
Rabbi Hirsch added: “Such a mission at such a historic time can lead to commitment — both physically and financially – on a much deeper level as there is a tangible emotional connection to the events unfolding that all of us are bearing witness to.”
SWFS is also ensuring that those who are not able to participate on the ground can contribute supplies and provide donations.
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About Stephen Wise Free Synagogue: A vibrant Reform congregation on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Stephen Wise Free Synagogue has served as a catalyst for progressive Jewish thought, committed social action in the local community and beyond, and support for Israel for more than 110 years. Visit swfs.org.
About Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch: Rabbi Hirsch is the senior rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City, where he has led a dramatic revival in Jewish life. Since his arrival in 2004 the synagogue has grown rapidly and has tripled its membership. He has introduced dramatic changes in worship, ritual, and education, attracting a new generation of Jews from throughout the New York region. Read more about Rabbi Hirsch and follow him on Twitter.