A new terror has risen in Eastern Europe and the Jewish community must stand against it. From the almost forgotten corner of Europe from which the Soviet and Czarist empires once menaced so many others, absolute dictator Vladimir Putin has led Russia down the path of destroying the peace and proved, once again, that the policy of appeasement does not work.
Just as we once stood for freedom for all victims of Russian oppression when the community supported Soviet Jewry, it is the responsibility of the Jewish community to stand against the repression once again emanating from Moscow. Today, this means advocating to elected representatives in the United States, to our family in Israel, and in Jewish organizations across the globe, that we support the Ukrainian freedom movement.
First and foremost, the Jewish community has a moral obligation to stand up to totalitarian expansionist regimes. This is doubly so in the case of opposing Putin’s regime, as he has openly glorified the de facto Russian empire that was the USSR, which oppressed not only Jews but many other ethnonational groups. As a community we always say “never forget” in reference to the Shoah, but we (and so many others) have forgotten the ethnic cleansing known as the Holodomor, in which about four million Ukrainians were murdered by systematic, planned, and organized mass starvation by the Soviet (aka Russian) authorities in the early 1930s.
Our leaders must stand with the freedom movement and tell elected representatives to embargo Russia, increase the arms flow, and greenlight our allies donating MiG fighters to Ukraine. We must not only raise aid to help the Ukrainian Jewish community but must provide humanitarian support to all Ukrainians, so they know that while Israel may be hamstrung in its support of freedom due to Putin’s forces in Syria, the Jewish community stands with Ukraine.
Second, the American Jewish community must prepare for the coming wave of Ukrainian refugees. Because we know what it is like to be dispossessed and to have our national identity on the chopping block of would-be empires and tin-pot dictators, we know what it means to go into exile. With a huge number of children in the Ukrainian refugee populations and with many headed to the United States, America soon will see an increasing number of children who have lived through the horrors of war, lost family, are missing home, and are strangers in what is to them a strange land.
We must help integrate not only the Jewish refugees from Ukraine, but Ukrainians of every ethnicity, from Muslim Tartars to Ukrainian Orthodox, who are fleeing Putin’s war, especially the children. In every Jewish federation the social services and support division should be open to Ukrainian refugees, Russian and Ukrainian speakers should be recruited, and child therapists should put on standby. Moreover, because adjusting to a new country is a challenging endeavor, especially for children fleeing war, Jewish summer camps should use some of their capacity to take in Ukrainian children.
The Jewish community cannot stop Putin’s war of choice, but we can help both the freedom movement and the refugees coming to America in exile from the brutal war Putin has created. We must advocate to elected officials to increase the flow of arms to the freedom fighters, organize more humanitarian aid from our community to help Ukraine, and use our communal institutions from social services to summer camps to help the Ukrainian refugees (especially children). Just as we once stood together as a community against Soviet oppression, we must do so once again. The Jewish community knows what it is to have great nations attempt to crush us, we have been the victim of empires and tyrants, and yet we have always been able to yell AM YISRAEL CHAI. That’s because no matter how bleak it has seemed, we have always persevered. Now, to help the world avoid an era of massive regional wars and the rebirth of Soviet-Czarist oppression, we must join with the Ukrainian community, support them in their time of need, and yell Slava Ukraini — glory to Ukraine — in the fight for freedom.
Joshua Sotomayor-Einstein of Hoboken is a proud Jew and Republican. He is a founding board member of the Hudson County Regional Jewish Council, served on the NJ GOP State Committee, opened up the then 8th Moishe House in the world, and is an advocate for freedom and commonsense for all. He is now is the political analyst for a media group and is a consultant with Pulse Consulting (pulseconsultingnj.com).