Rabbi Rafi Ostroff of the World Organization of Orthodox Synagogues and Communities recently returned from a mission at the border between Ukraine and Poland, where he was doing humanitarian work as a delegate of the organization.

“The mission was to work with Jewish refugees that have just come over the border from Ukraine in a terrible state of destitute – to work with them on a level of doing humanitarian work," Rabbi Ostroff says. "But also I come from a religious organization and to give them just some kind of Jewish feeling and a synagogue and a place that they an feel that they've arrived at a Jewish community.”

They were based in a refugee camp that was established in a building that once belonged to the Lublin Jewish community that was ruined by the Nazis during the Holocaust and then given back to the Jewish community quite a few years ago.

The building has become the center for mainly Jewish Ukrainian refugees.

“Our job was to help them run their lives and make some kind of organization or sensibility in their lives that have been turned upside down," Rabbi Ostroff says. “You can't believe how thankful they are just to have a nice word, someone that looks into what's happening with them and maybe gives them a future.”

How did the non-Jews there react to seeing this special Jewish community set up to help refugees?

“I think they were a bit envious but they were they were hugged as well. They come to a Jewish community building in order to receive food and to receive clothes, to receive diapers for their children. So they're very thankful and they have great gratitude to what they see as a Jewish organization.”

What was his experience of seeing up close the refugees and the humanitarian crisis going on?

“I also do guiding in Poland as a Holocaust educator and this was the first time that I’ve come up close to see actual refugees just like after or during the Second World War, people that within 10 minutes had to pick up their lives, leave everything behind, and just run for their lives, and that's what happened to the Jews then and that's exactly what happened to more than two million Ukrainians that have arrived in Poland, among them tens of thousands of Jewish people, and it's very disheartening. It was very difficult feeling and seeing this and experiencing with them what they've been through.”

Rabbi Ostroff does not agree with the statements that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made comparing the Ukraine war to the Holocaust.

“I don't think there's any comparison," he says. "No one is taking people from Ukraine and putting them into gas chambers. I think that's not correct and we also know unfortunately that we have very bad memories of how many Ukrainians cheated Jews during the during the Holocaust, including actively participating in the murder, gathering the murder camps as well. That's on the one hand. On the other hand, this is not the time to come to account with the Ukrainian people. There's time for everything, this is not the time for that. Today, it's a country in shambles. Its people are being forced into being refugees, people have been killed, and we have a humanitarian obligation as human beings, as Jewish people, to help them now.”