Ukrainian synagogue reinvents itself as massive aid centre

Amid relentless bombings, Kherson’s synagogue has become a source of help for Jews and non-Jews alike.

The city of Kherson hasn’t known peace since the Russian invasion began.

“Our city is under constant bombarding, literally on a daily basis. Sometimes it happens several times a day, sometimes even at night, just all the time. Those who don’t have a real reason – do not leave their homes,” says the city’s rabbi, Yosef Yitzchak Wolff.

Since the outbreak of the war, Rabbi Wolff has transformed the synagogue into a massive outreach centre, not only for the local Jewish community but for all the city’s residents.

Recently, the assistance provided by the Jewish community has skyrocketed. “With the help of Chabad’s JRNU relief centre in Ukraine, we announced in the city the distribution of a cash grant to every person in need, Jewish and non-Jewish, with the sum of $200, which is a very generous amount in the local context.

“We never anticipated the number of people who would turn to us. From hundreds, it jumped to thousands in a short period of time. I myself was astonished by the constant influx of people.”

Rabbi Wolff also shared a chilling story that illustrates the assistance provided to non-Jewish residents. “You could see a look of death in her eyes. It turned out she suffers from juvenile diabetes and urgently needed insulin, which was not available anywhere in the city. Through a good friend, a local hospital manager, we managed to save her.

“When I asked her why she came specifically to the synagogue, after all, we are not a pharmacy, she gave a very surprising answer: ‘Friends of my father from Israel told him to send me to the synagogue, and there I will surely get help.’ Every resident of Kherson knows that at the synagogue – we are there for them.”


Light unto the nations: How Kherson’s synagogue became a massive outreach centre (Ynet)

Photo: People seek help at the Kherson synagogue (JRNU)