Rabbi Julia Gris, left, who led a Progressive Jewish congregation in Odesa, Ukraine, hugs a member of her congregation. CZAREK SOKOLOWSKI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
As I sit to write today, I try to steer my mind away from the Ukraine disaster and Russian war crimes to talk about the wonderful visit to Australia of Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. But I can’t.
Last night I came across the photo of Ukraine’s only female Progressive Rabbi who because she is Russian born was advised she should flee Ukraine. That meant leaving her community and those she wished to bring comfort to and help protect.
I met Rabbi Julia Gris and 4 of her Rabbinic colleagues, from the Former Soviet Union in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2015 at the World Union for Progressive Judaism Biennial conference. I was surprised that the Progressive community was so large in that part of the world. Rabbi Dukhovny has told us of the 40 plus Progressive congregations in Ukraine alone with some 200,000 congregants. Rabbi Dukhovny described the situation in Ukraine as like “David and Goliath. We will show that we are one. One nation of God”.
Back in 2015 at the conference with these 5 lovely Rabbis from the FSU, we had the most amazing and interactive time. I spent an evening out with them at a restaurant in Rio. They are the most friendly, personal, fun-loving people who are so genuine in their Judaism and a blessing to our movement. I have a wonderful memory of celebrating Havdalah on Copacabana Beach with so many of our fellow Progressive Jewish conference friends from all parts of the world, including those from the FSU.
It was reported in Israeli media that Rabbi Julia Gris and her 19-year-old daughter walked 30 kilometres lugging suitcases and her 2 cats to Poland. She has since lit Shabbat candles and performed services in Warsaw and through an online service to her scattered congregation in Moldova, Romania, and Israel. She said, “There were so many stories, so much crying and so much pain, for those who are here and even more so for those still in Ukraine”.
So, the fleeing of so many Jews lays bare the deceitfulness and the lying of the Russian regime claiming to be “De nazifying” while brutalizing a country with one of the largest Jewish populations and led by a brave and heroic Jewish President Zelensky.
I IMPLORE YOU TO DONATE TO THE UKRAINE CRISIS FUND THROUGH THE UIA PROGRESSIVE APPEAL HELPING THE WUPJ AND RABBI BERGMAN TO BRING ASSISTANCE AND SUPPORT TO THE PROGRESSIVE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF THE UKRAINE.
CLICK HERE TO DONATE
Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President