Vancouver Jewish community continues to support Ukrainians, but this is not the first time

Rabbi Dan Moskovitz says the Ukrainian Jewish community are 'extended family'



By Seth Forward

When Masha Kotelevskaya immigrated to Vancouver from Ukraine with her three-year-old son. She didn’t know anyone.

Jewish Family Services offered to help Kotelevskaya by providing her with financial aid and access to the JFS food bank.

“I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t have anyone to help me… I went to the Jewish community,” she said.

Kotelevskaya was surprised by the quality of food provided by the JFS.

“It was wonderful,” said Kotelevskaya.

Her hometown of Kharkiv is only a 45 minute drive from the Russian border, and has recently been ravaged by war.

“My city, Kharkiv, is too close to Russia and every day there are bombs since the war started,” she said. “I smile because I don’t want tears.”

Temple Sholom, along with Vancouver’s Jewish community, created a fund in March 2022 to support Ukrainian refugees, and those unable to leave Ukraine.

Rabbi Moskovitz and his congregation have been supporting eight Ukranian refugee families in Vancouver.

He said the involvement in this support effort has helped many in his congregation learn more about their own Ukrainian family history.

Many Jews fled Ukraine after the early 20th century pogroms, while others arrived in Canada fleeing the Holocaust.

From 1917 to 1922, tens of thousands of Jews were killed in antisemetic pogroms by Russian murder squads.

“Pogrom” is a Russian word that means “to wreak havoc, to demolish violently.” During the Russian Civil War, all three warring sides took part in pogroms.

Ben Garber fled from the small Eastern Ukrainian town of Miasdkovka in 1919, after his town was targeted in the pogroms. He and his family started the long journey to Vancouver, arriving in Canada in 1924.

Garber remembered the day he and his family were forced to leave in a 1974 interview.

“From 10 o’clock in the morning to three o’clock,” he said. “78 Jewish people were tortured to death and 80 houses were burned. It was awful. That was when my father made the decision to run away.”



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