When an 8-day-old Jewish boy was brought into the Covenant of Abraham last Thursday in Chabad of Warsaw’s bustling center, the Brit Milah (circumcision) ceremony held far more significance than it ordinarily would have.
The young boy is the child of Ukrainian refugees, a family who made the harrowing journey out from under Russian fire.
When the nine-month-pregnant mother-to-be arrived in Warsaw together with her husband and elderly parents at the end of their desperate journey from their hometown of Izyum, Ukraine, they carried little more than what they could fit into a few small bags. They were put in touch with Chabad of Warsaw, whose comprehensive relief arm sprung into action, securing an apartment for the family, food, clothing, furnishings, and supplies for the new baby, who was born several weeks later.
“When the war started, and we realized the extent of the unfolding crisis, we knew we had to provide food and housing for all Jewish refugees,” said Rabbi Shalom Ber Stambler, who directs Chabad of Poland with his wife Dina. “The stories are harrowing. Refugees arrive here exhausted, injured, ill or newly bereaved, having lost loved ones to the war. Most have never even stepped foot in Warsaw. Our budget has quadrupled since this crisis began, but we feel that it’s our moral obligation to help them, and we make it our business to do everything we can.”
Stambler has led the refugee aid campaign, working day and night on the personal concerns of hundreds of refugees each day. Stambler secured the use of a hotel kitchen, dining room, and 50 bedrooms which house some 100 transient refugees on any given day, with another hundred put up elsewhere in the city. Since the refugee crisis began, Chabad has been providing three hot meals a day to more than 400 people. Chabad has hosted more than 1000 refugees since the outbreak of the war, and each person is provided with what they need, including diapers, strollers, cribs, medicine and medical care, clothing and personal necessities.
Chabad has opened a daycare for refugee children, where they can safely learn and play while their parents focus on rebuilding their shattered lives. They provide classes in English and Polish to help the refugees acclimate, and have placed emphasis on maintaining their emotional wellbeing as well, providing counseling and mental health services.
Rabbi Mayer Stambler, who has headed the fundraising efforts made necessary by this crisis, noted the groundswell of support Chabad of Warsaw has received in recent weeks, with communities from around the world contributing to the humanitarian efforts to save lives and help those who have fled the war rebuild anew.
“While the need continues to grow, the outpouring of support from Jewish communities around the world has been heartwarming,” he said. “We are hopeful that this will continue, as more and more families continue to join the refugee community here in Warsaw.”
And as one of those families welcomed their son into the Covenant of Abraham, the Warsaw Chabad community joined them in celebrating the birth of new life, as Ukraine’s Jewish community rises from the ashes.
For more information and to donate to Chabad of Warsaw’s comprehensive relief efforts, visit Charidy.com/plitim