FJC and Chabad teams are going door to door ensuring the well-being of community members
Missiles struck an office building and several residential buildings in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, at around 10:50 this morning local time. Twenty-two people have been reported killed, and more than 100 wounded.
Vinnitsa, a western Ukrainian city with a population of 370,000, and a significant Jewish population, was considered a safe haven, far away from the havoc, says Rabbi Shaul Horowitz, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch and FJC representative of Vinnitsa with his wife, Chana Hadasa. “Due to our reputation as a safe city, thousands of refugees have passed through here, and many are here now.” Horowitz says most come from places like Donetsk, Mariupol and Kharkov—some of the embattled country’s most ravaged areas.
The missiles struck the heart of the city, in an area where many Jewish community members live and only five minutes from the JCC. Several Jews who live there are confirmed to be safe, and Chabad has deployed teams to go door-to-door checking on the welfare of community members and offering assistance. “Even people who lived in other buildings have windows blown out,” says Horowitz. “People here are in shock.”
Since the crisis began some five months ago, Chabad of Vinnitsa has been helping refugees find shelter in the quiet city, turning their entire school building into a refugee camp. Classrooms once outfitted with desks and chairs are now carpeted with mattresses and blankets and Chabad delivers food packages all over the city.
Vinnitsa, in the heartland of historic Podolia, has a Jewish history going back centuries. Nearly the entire Jewish population was wiped out during the 1648-49 Cossack pogroms led by Bogdan Khmelnitsky. At the same time, it served as an important center for Jewish life. For a period in the 1630s the celebrated Talmudist R’ Yom Tov Lipman Heller, known as the Tosfot Yom Tov, served as rabbi of a nearby village. At the dawn of World War II, the Jewish population stood at 33,000, some 35 percent of the city’s residents. Some 15,000 Jews were murdered by the Germans in 1941, shot into open pits.
But thousands of Jews returned to Vinnitsa after the war and the Jewish community, now numbering several thousand families, is a strong one.
In June, they celebrated the marriage of two of their own: Shmuel Elik and Esther Kudrin. He’s from Vinnitsa and she from Mogilev-Podolsk and a graduate of Chabad’s school in Vinnitsa—where the wedding took place.
“They met due to the crisis,” says Horowitz, “and they’ve decided to build a Jewish home, one based on Jewish tradition and heritage.”
Horowitz, who has been back in Vinnitsa since before Passover, was in Israel attending a wedding when today’s attack took place. Now he’s heading back to the devastated city he’s called home since 2002.
Based on an article by Mendel Super at Chabad.org