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Omaha rabbi flying to Poland to deliver donated funds, supplies to Ukrainian refugees

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Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 10:48 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As part of a mission for the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), two Omaha rabbis are making the journey to the Poland-Ukraine border to deliver supplies and funds donated by the metro community.

The JFNA reached out to their branches, including Omaha’s branch, to ask for help in gathering medical supplies, hygiene products, and Passover toys and games to be delivered to the border to help Ukrainian refugees and those who are sheltering in place in the war-torn country.

Jewish community leader Jeff Kirshenbaum and Rabbi Steven Abraham left Omaha Monday with 28 duffle bags filled with supplies. The Omaha community also raised more than $194,000.

“It was pretty amazing the outpouring of support from everyone, not just the Jewish community but the entire community, cause they want to do something,” Rabbi Abraham tells 6 News from the Chicago airport on Monday evening.

“I have a lot of feelings going through my head and my heart, Poland has done a lot to step up for what’s going on in Ukraine, Poland is also a place where a lot of terrible things happened in Jewish history, so I’m kind of going in with my eyes wide open.”

Abraham is the rabbi at the Beth El Synagogue on 144th & Dodge. He said the opportunity to travel to Poland was one he knew he couldn’t pass up.

“To be able to see what’s going on and then come back and say, ‘this is incredibly important, we saw what’s going on,’” he says. “Not to ever knock the news media, but you know, we live in a world right now where sometimes seeing things with your own eyes is really important.”

Abraham says it’s hard to mentally prepare for what the next few days will hold.

The goal of the mission is to deliver the supplies, but also to witness history. Abraham says it will be an opportunity to come back and teach our communities about the enormity of the situation.

“To go to Poland as a Jew is an emotional experience, right, you know there’s blood of our ancestors in the ground of that country, so to be able to go there and to see other people running for their lives and being refugees is a really important thing to be able to see.”

Although honored to be given the experience, Abraham says they’re not the ones who should be celebrated.

“We’re not being so brave, it’s the people on the ground that are there that are doing this are fighting something on behalf of the civilized world and democratic countries and that’s really important. We’re going there to be babysat for a few hours so we can report back and bear witness to our community and say that the work you’re doing to raise funds for Band-Aids, gauze pads, games for Passover really is meaningful.”

Abraham and Kirshenbaum will land in Poland Tuesday and will travel to the border Wednesday to deliver supplies. They will fly home on Thursday.

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