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.
The Lord said to me, “I have a greater task for you, my servant. Not only will you restore to greatness the people of Israel who have survived, but I will also make you a light to the nations—so that all the world may be saved.” Isaiah 49:6
How long, O Lord? Jennifer Waddle - Ministry Development Team
As the war Ukraine continues, and our Jewish brothers and sisters experience unimaginable hardship, I imagine they are asking heart-wrenching questions of which the answers are unknown.
How long will this senseless assault continue?
Has the rest of the world forgotten us?
How much more death and destruction will there be?
Will our enemy be victorious over us?
From afar, there’s no way to truly understand the atrocities our precious brothers and sisters are going through. Only through the lens of empathy and compassion can we even begin to imagine the horrific situation that is the reality for every man, woman, and child suffering in Ukraine.
And from our limited perspective, we have questions, too.
Is it okay to question God? If He already knows our thoughts before we speak them, haven’t the cries of our hearts already reached His ears?
Opening the Scriptures to Psalm 13, we see a barrage of questions from David that express great turmoil.
“How long, O Lord?”
“Will You forget me forever?”
“How long will You hide Your face from me?”
“How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?”
“How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”
These weren’t questions spoken in haste, but rather cries of his soul desperately seeking answers. The thing is, Psalm 13 doesn’t tell us whether God answered David or not, but it ends with words of unwavering trust in God’s mercy and salvation.
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.”
My friends, the Lord knows we have questions and bears with us as we try to understand the “why” of what is going on in Ukraine. He hears both our spoken and unspoken concerns. And He wants us to trust Him. Just as David circled back to God’s unfailing love, we, too, can trust that God will come through.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you,
I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Brothers and sisters, we are being called upon by God to urgently rescue Holocaust Survivors who continue to suffer in the life-threatening living conditions in Ukraine. When I walk into the homes of these precious people, the pain is so thick that I can feel it in the air. When I enter their room and our eyes meet, their tears flow freely as their bodies shake uncontrollably, due to the fears and hope that they harbor. Their one and only thought is, “Will this be the day that my prayers are answered and I am finally rescued… is this the day that I can finally begin to relax…”
Eva was born on February 23, 1942 in Kiev, Ukraine. Just months before her birth, her parents were forced into hiding when SS and German police units began summoning Jews to Babi Yar, a ravine just outside of the city. It was there at the edge of that ravine, where many of her parent’s relatives, neighbours and friends were forced to undress and line up side by side. After, they were executed by gunshot and then dumped in the ravine.