By Don Horwitz CEO, Christians Care International
The Jewish Pale of Settlement was that part of the Russian Empire where Russia’s Jewish population was required to live and work between the late 18th and early 20th century. The Pale, which included most of Ukraine, was made up of over 5 million Jews, accounting for 40% of the world’s Jewish population. Our Jewish brothers and sisters did their best to live in the Pale, but so many of them were violently killed in many of the same cities which are now being attacked and bombed.
My family, my own grandparents Ben and Minnie, ran for their lives to escape being killed from the Pale Of Settlement. For my entire life, I had always questioned why my grandparents who helped to raise me, never, ever once spoke about my heritage or their lives before coming to America. Of course, when I was older, I understood that there had to be an immense amount of trauma that they suffered from in not only witnessing loved ones and friends being viscously taken away, but also in the close calls that they surely encountered when finally escaping. Even with this understanding, I still somehow selfishly felt cheated that I never knew enough, or really anything at all about the foundation of my family.
It was a few months after this war in Ukraine started, that I realized that history was again repeating itself for the Jewish people of this region. It is of course, not for the same reasons as it was when my grandparents fled. But the images that we are now seeing of inhumane destruction, of people in indescribable pain and the brutal scenes of torture and death… are very much the same.
A few weeks ago, after completing a conference call with our team in Ukraine, I started to think about the history of repression in Russia and the continued affects that it had and is currently having on it’s people. The thoughts of using force, fear and terror to control, brought me right back to what my grandparents must have surely experienced while living there. Tears began to flow down my face uncontrollably and I softly said to myself… I now understand how “constant overwhelming fear” dictated how my grandparents would live and act for the rest of their lives.
Through research, I found out that my grandparents were not the adults that I imagined them to be when they ran. They were only teenagers…17 year old teenagers who were recently married. They must have been terrified about the unknown and also about the possibility of being caught and killed at the hands of their aggressors. I am now sure that extreme fear was the reason they had never spoke about their past, because for their entire lives they probably felt that some how, some way, they would still be found, and then they and their entire family, who they risked their lives to create… would be executed.
The horrific history of the Jewish people in this region is not their destiny. We are being called upon and challenged right now by God to “Up Our Efforts” in working together to assist in His plan for the Jewish people and Israel. Our work in this God-given mission is not only blessing and saving our brothers and sister’s lives, but it also is a part of God’s plan to provide HOPE for the entire world.