Cherkassy Jewish Community Provides Shelter for Others Even as They Live in Fear

FJC representatives and Chabad emissaries provide buses, food and prayer to save lives and raise spirits

For centuries, Jews have called Cherkassy, Ukraine, and its environs home. Even in the middle of the current deadly conflict, many Jews have decided to remain in this town on the banks of the Dnipro River, some 112 miles southeast of Kiev (Kyiv).

According to Chana Axelrod, who along with her husband, Dov, lead the community and are directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Cherkassy, many Jews remain in the city, are receiving food and needed goods from FJC and Chabad and are even providing shelter for refugees fleeing westward from decimated cities to the east, like Kharkov

“Our community center has a kitchen, and we have staff there who cook and bake,” and they are continuing to do so, said Axelrod. The couple is also providing funds for those in need and certificates to the local market for those able to shop on their own.

The Axelrods, who have led the Cherkassy Jewish community since 1998, are doing all this from afar, as they and some 100 members of their community have relocated to Israel. Several hundred others from their community have sought refuge in Western Ukraine or Europe, according to the Chabad emissary, who arranged together with the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS for 11 buses to evacuate people from the city over the last few weeks.

While sirens are often heard in Cherkassy, Axelrod said that for now, the city has been mostly spared the large-scale damage done to other towns. In fact, she said, Jews from other cities are finding safety in Cherkassy, and even in the Axelrods’ own home, where 11 people and one dog are now staying.

“It’s a huge zechus—a huge merit—to be able to help them,” she said.

She and her husband remain in contact with the Jews who are still in Cherkassy, as well as those who are in Europe and those in Israel.

Some evacuees are having an extremely difficult time. “They are scared, confused and depressed,” described Axelrod. “When people call me to talk, I tell them, ‘I feel the same way; it is scary and confusing.’ But I also tell them, ‘If you want to stay focused and stay mentally healthy, you have to look every day for the good things Hashem does for you. I know it’s hard, but only then will you see how rich you are.’ ”

In addition to the material aid and help with evacuation, the Axelrods are also trying to “provide words of comfort to make people strong. We are saying Tehillim [‘Psalms’] with them, reminding them that G‑d is watching them, but we are also asking, ‘Are you feeling safe? Maybe you should leave?’ But we are doing so gently, so if they decide to stay, they won’t be afraid and will remain strong,” she explained.

Even as her community is scattered between continents, said Axelrod, “we are like a big, huge family who help each other and strengthen each other; we love each other. We have a warm and strong community, and we need each other.”

Based on an article by Faygie Levy Holt | Chabad.org

Photo: Many Jews remain in Cherkassy. They are receiving food and needed goods from FJC and Chabad and are even providing shelter for refugees fleeing westward from decimated cities to the east, like Kharkov.

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