A rabbi recounts his journey to help Ukrainian refugees

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NEW ALBANY, Ohio (WCMH) — A central Ohio rabbi has returned home after helping Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

Rabbi Howard Apothaker spent five days helping shelters, helping refugees find directions to trains and sometimes doing what he could to put smiles on children’s faces.

“The situation is constantly changing,” Rabbi Apothaker said. “Infrastructure has to grow, shrink, and grow again, so every day there’s a different problem and a different way to deal with it.”

He traveled with 29 other Jewish clergy from the United States, Europe and Israel. Their work was coordinated by the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Krakow, according to Rabbi Apothaker.

His grandparents are from Ukraine. “The main thing I feel today is that I would like to do another five days next week and another five days the following week,” he said.

He carried about 200 pounds of supplies, including formula powder, lotions, tennis balls and other small toys for children to play with. He returned to central Ohio the day before Passover. Ukrainian refugees are always on his mind.

“It’s almost impossible for me to identify with someone who is on the run. I have never been on the run. But what I can do is be there for them,” he said.

The table for Rabbi Apothaker’s table is set. The holiday commemorates the escape of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Parts of the special text read for Passover resonate a little more with Rabbi Apothaker this year.

“In every generation a man must act as if he himself had come out of Egypt. Here people come out of an Egypt and we wanted to be something across the Red Sea,” he said.

The other main line of the Passover Haggadah is to make sure you have an extra seat at your table for all who are hungry to come and eat. You can speak these lines or you can do the deed.

He has spent time volunteering in and around the Polish-Ukrainian border and hopes his trip will inspire others to help.


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