Terrified children take shelter in FJC’s ‘Mishpacha’ orphanage basement
Based on an article by Mendel Super and Yaakov Ort | Chabad.org
In one of the worst nights of destruction in Odessa since the beginning of the 16-month crisis in Ukraine, the city endured relentless missile and bomb attacks Saturday night with panic-stricken residents seeking safety in any available shelter as devastation rained down from above.
“The whole city is shaking,” said Rabbi Avraham Wolff, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Odessa. “We’ve had an incredibly challenging night. The entire population has taken to shelters. We’ve never had such an influx of people to the synagogues and Chabad centers around the city,” he told Chabad.org.
Rabbi Wolff and his wife, Chaya, direct FJC’s Mishpacha Children’s Home. Videos posted by the orphanage show children and staff rushing in their bedclothes hastily seeking refuge after midnight in the building’s basement.
“We swiftly relocated all the children to a secure area. We’re doing our best,” said Wolff. “Our staff and professionals are working tirelessly to reassure and comfort them.”
Just a week prior to the attack, French Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy toured Chabad-Lubavitch of Odessa’s facilities, including the Mishpacha Children’s Home, where he was exposed to the extensive efforts of the Jewish community throughout the difficult situation and said he was deeply moved by the profound impact on children.
The philosopher lauded Chabad’s efforts on behalf of the 120 children of the Odessa orphanage. The children had undergone a grueling 52-hour journey across seven countries the previous year before reaching Berlin, where they were hosted for months by Chabad of Berlin. The children were escorted by the Wolffs’ son, Rabbi Mendi Wolff, on their journey to Berlin, while his parents remained behind in Odessa, determined to stay with their community during the crisis.
“We’ve been through a lot of difficult moments since the crisis broke out,” said Rabbi Avraham Wolff. “What happened tonight was particularly hard.”