Omaha Jewish leaders share experiences from Ukraine-Poland border

Last month, two leaders from Omaha’s Jewish community traveled to the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 11:13 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Last month, two leaders from Omaha’s Jewish community traveled to the Polish-Ukrainian border.

The trip was part of a mission for the Jewish Federations of North America.

All the branches, including Omaha’s, were asked to gather medical supplies, hygiene products, and Passover toys and games, as well as monetary donations to support those seeking safety and escaping the Russian invasion.

“We live in a world right now where sometimes seeing things with your own eyes is really important,” said Rabbi Steven Abraham, who spoke with 6 News last month, just hours before leaving for the trip.

Abraham made the journey with Jewish leader Jeff Kirshenbaum. They traveled with 28 duffle bags of donated supplies and more than $190,000, all donated by Omahans.

“People were bringing everything from a small bag to boxes of stuff and then we were here packing it and it was mind-boggling to see everything out at the front,” Kirshenbaum said Wednesday night.

The men shared their experience with members of the Jewish Community Center on Wednesday. They say the donations from the community made a palpable impact at the refugee centers set up by Israeli organizations at the Ukraine-Poland border.

“Everybody says ‘what’s that money go for? Does Israel really need that money? Let’s keep it here in Omaha, let’s keep it in your community,’ well, we saw that money being used,” Kirshenbaum says.

“It was really impressive to see 2.5 million people kind of being resettled or leaving their country and just watching that and seeing how that unfolds and the amount of infrastructure and logistics that were being put in place,” Abraham says. “It was also very humbling.”

The two men say to see the Israeli flag flying at the border of the two countries, both with devastating pasts for Jews, made them incredibly proud.

“It’s a pretty impactful statement being there and seeing that flag of what it’s saying of, ‘you tried to get rid of us,’ perhaps, not only did you not get rid of us but we’re here and we’re now taking care of what’s going on here so that this does not happen again,” Abraham says.

Many who came to hear their stories say it’s important to hear first-hand accounts of the impacts of Russia’s invasion.

“It’s important from a Jewish perspective and from a free person to stand up for others and give them assistance,” says Michael Levine, who came to hear the men share their experiences. “I was so happy that I donated and I heard what that money was being used for and how a community like ours, a small Jewish community can do so much for a group of people we don’t know but we’re happy to help.”

The leaders say they would go back in an instant, but next time, if the opportunity arises, rather than observing and delivering supplies, they hope to be more closely helping those in need.

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