'Ukrainians still need our help'


A United Synagogue rabbi has urged the community to focus its attention on the plight of Jews in war-torn Ukraine.

Rabbi David Mason, of Muswell Hill Synagogue in north London, said that while other issues had made headlines in recent weeks, Jews caught up in the conflict between Ukraine and Russian separatists needed "our help and our thoughts".

He said: "The current refugee crisis should not be the only thing on our mind. It's important that we think globally as a community. We often focus on helping those in Israel or the UK but we need to be aware of other situations our brothers and sisters around the world our facing. And what is going on in Ukraine really needs our attention."

Rabbi Mason was one of seven US rabbis who paid a three-day visit to Ukraine last week to view aid projects funded by World Jewish Relief.

The conflict has had a devastating impact on the country's 300,000 Jews.Thousands have been forced to flee their homes in the face of fighting in the east of the country.

The rabbis met the community in the town of Zaporozhye, home to 10,000 Jews. The town is situated on a strategic land route between Crimea and separatist-controlled areas in the east.

Rabbi Baruch Davis, of Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue, said he was moved by the suffering of the people there.

"I met a lovely elderly couple who had faced the ravages of the Holocaust, only to lose their son to war in Russia. It was hard to see the acute poverty they were living in with conditions certainly impacting on people's health."

Other rabbis in the delegation included Yoni Birnbaum from Hadley Wood Synagogue, Nissan Wilson of Redbridge United Synagogue, and Danny Bergson of Pinner Synagogue.

They visited WJR projects providing care to elderly residents and the charity's "warm homes" project which helps to bring older people together in social groups in order to tackle isolation.

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