Kfar Maccabiah, April 2022 Nissan 5782
חג הפסח: חג החרות עבור יהודי אוקראינה
Pessach: Freedom from the war in the Ukraine
When we speak of Pessach we generally refer to its message of freedom. In these days before the Festivities of Matzot and Spring in Israel, we receive and send greetings to our esteemed people describing the Chag - in all justice - as "Chag HaCherut", "The Celebration of Freedom", evoking the liberation saga of the Jewish People from the Pharaonic yoke more than 3,300 years ago. That is the central theme of the Haggadah, the story we read with our family and friends in the traditional Passover Seder, stored in our memories with love and warmth since our own childhood. Passover became synonymous with freedom, with multiple meanings in all spheres of our lives.
This year, we have heard the cry for freedom - the freedom from the horrors of war. Our siblings from Maccabi Ukraine are in real danger - and started fighting for the freedom of their Communities.
Our best leaders and our Maccabi family in Europe and worldwide have come then into action. Laura Renberg-Dunkelgrün, Maccabi Netherlands CEO, tells us how this glorious work for freedom and safety is being done:
“Maccabi Europe hoped, like everyone else, that 2022 would provide us with normality. Planning for the 21st Maccabiah and working directly on the ground with our 37 affiliated countries appeared to be just around the corner. But all that changed on Thursday, February 24th at 8:10am. David Beesemer, Maccabi Europe Chairman, was contacted by Viktoriya Dyakova (Vika), Maccabi Ukraine Chairperson to make him aware of the Russian invasion and its impending impact on the people of Ukraine, the Jewish Community and the thousands of Maccabi members from 20 Maccabi clubs around the Ukraine.
Maccabi Europe immediately established a Maccabi Europe Ukraine Task Force led by Dagmar Gavornikova, Maccabi Europe President & Maccabi Slovakia Chairperson. Dagmar was best placed to reach out to Maccabi Ukraine, to establish their immediate needs and to start to plan for their evacuation.
With a plot more believable in a World War II movie, we reached out for support from Maccabi World Union in Israel and then from other Maccabi countries across Europe, including Maccabi Hungary, Poland, Germany, Italy, Holland, Moldova and Romania, asking them to join the Task Force with the key objective of helping people leave the warzone as quickly and as safely as possible. Maccabi Europe had members at each border crossing from Ukraine assisting the refugees in whatever way they could. Often they would wait all night whilst the refugees’ papers were processed.
The response from the Maccabi community across Europe was overwhelming. Dagmar and the Task Force quickly established safe meeting-points at the borders connected to Ukraine. The first 50 refugees were taken to the safe haven of Bucharest, where they were given food and accommodation. They arrived Sunday, February 27th, at 10am local time- just 72 hours after the first call was made.
Since then, hundreds of Jewish refugees have crossed the border and found safety in Amsterdam, Bucharest, Budapest, Frankfurt and many other places - including a large number that recently arrived in Israel. This was done with the help of Maccabi Europe’s Affiliates. On top of the humanitarian cost of war, there is the financial cost, and we are pleased to say that our communities have opened both their hearts and their homes whilst also sending money to support the transportation, housing and feeding of the refugees.
In the short term, Maccabi Europe has managed to support and help over 500 people through our Maccabi network. Whilst we are very happy and proud to have played a small part in helping these people, we remain humble, as we are painfully aware that this war has affected millions and is far from over. We have heard of and read about the murders and destruction, and we know there are and will continue to be a lot more people in need of help. Whilst sharing the stories about our Movement’s reaction to the war, we are sensitive to the fact that many ordinary people from every community are doing extraordinary things right now. We will continue to offer support where possible and for as long as necessary.”
Maccabi has responded to the cry of freedom of hundreds in danger during the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. Every Passover Seder with its dinner party is a joyous family and national celebration. If our ancestors during 18 centuries of dispossession, alienation and exile were able to celebrate a national freedom they did not enjoy in their day-to-day lives... then all the more so should we, who live in the era of Jewish national redemption! We can say "Leshanah Haba'ah Biyirushalayim!" ("Next year in Jerusalem") and grasp this dream, this ancient desire, right now...
May God grant that this Seder inspires us to recover the outstanding significance of the National Freedom of Pessach.
May God grant that we learn to enjoy this present, glorious period in the history of our people, when our national freedom is an everyday reality in our Jewish State.
And May God bless this gathering of our cherished ones around the
Passover Table in loving embrace and meaningful dialogue.
Chag Pessach Sameach!
Rabbi Carlos A. Tapiero
Deputy Director-General & Director of Education
Maccabi World Union
Photo Maccabi Europe