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Jewish volunteers bond with Ukrainian children at summer time camp

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A 5-year-old woman’s drawing at a summer time camp in Poland’s capital caught the attention of one in all her counselors. Why did she use black and white, and never purple or pink, to make a coronary heart, Rabbi Ilana Baird requested the kid.

The woman, sighing closely, mentioned it was black just like the canine she left behind in Ukraine.

Baird, who lives in California, volunteered with a number of different Jews initially from Russia or different components of the previous Soviet Union to mentor Ukrainian refugee kids on the camp in Warsaw. This system, which ended Friday, was designed to offer some pleasure to kids traumatized by war, to assist put together them for a brand new faculty yr in Poland, and to offer their moms a while to themselves.

After performing puppet exhibits and studying tales to her group of 5- and 6-year-old campers, portray lots of little faces and shelling out a lot of large hugs, the rabbi noticed one other coronary heart drawing. This one was pink.

“Happiness,” the woman defined.

Baird, 48, was joyful to see cheerful colours and rainbows additionally rising within the art work of different kids beneath her care on the Kef Be Kayitz camp, a Hebrew identify meaning Enjoyable within the Summer time.

For the volunteers, the choice to take time without work from their common jobs in the US and fly to Poland to work with the Ukrainian kids was pushed by a want to assist these in want, a price that’s common and a central a part of Jewish non secular teachings.

“Jewish individuals have suffered a lot previously. We suffered pogroms, we suffered the Holocaust and we suffered antisemitism,” Baird mentioned. “And now we have a way of obligation to assist people who find themselves struggling proper now.”

After Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, individuals throughout Poland sprang into motion to welcome and assist refugees from the neighboring nation. Poland has accepted extra of the battle’s refugees than some other nation.

Local and international Jewish organizations additionally wasted no time in attempting to satisfy essentially the most pressing wants: to accommodate and feed the Ukrainians, most of whom are ladies and kids.

With the battle about to enter its sixth month, the camp on the Lauder Morasha Faculty in Warsaw displays the kind of programming being developed to satisfy the altering wants of refugees. Many Ukrainians notice they gained’t have the ability to go home soon, or perhaps ever, mentioned Helise Lieberman, the director of the Taube Heart for Jewish Life and Studying.

Mornings have been dedicated to Polish, English and math classes so the kids will probably be in a stronger place to adapt to high school. Lots of the Ukrainian children who arrived in Poland since February completed the Ukrainian educational yr remotely however will probably be getting into Polish faculties in September.

RELATED: Polish Catholic community houses Ukrainian refugees as US agencies urge action

Campers spent afternoons doing arts and crafts, taking part in sports activities and making excursions to metropolis museums and parks. A few third of the 90 kids who attended the camp are Jewish, in accordance with Marta Saracyn, the pinnacle of the Jewish Group Heart of Warsaw.

“It’s a stunning bubble for teenagers to be children,” Saracyn mentioned.

A few of the Ukrainian refugee moms must search for jobs, and a few are severely depressed after being separated from companions and relations again house, organizers mentioned.

The Taube Heart and the Jewish Group Heart of Warsaw organized the camp at the side of the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Company for Israel and the American Joint Distribution Committee.

The Jewish Federations of North America recruited practically 90 Russian-speaking educators and rabbinic leaders to assist Ukrainian refugees in Poland and Hungary, and 10 helped out on the Warsaw camp, mentioned Hannah Miller, who runs the volunteer program.

The ten camp volunteers are Russian-speaking immigrants who left the Soviet Union a long time in the past, or the kids of Russian Jewish immigrants. Solely a pair spoke Ukrainian, in order that they principally spoke to the kids in Russian, which can also be extensively utilized in a lot of Ukraine.

Baird recalled portray the face of a boy who turned upset when he realized she wasn’t from Ukraine. “Why did you come right here?” he requested her.

“Since you don’t should be from Ukraine to assist others,” the rabbi answered, “you simply should be human.”

The Jewish faculty the place the camp passed off is situated blocks from the previous Warsaw Ghetto, the place Jews have been imprisoned by German forces, killed and starved throughout the Holocaust earlier than they have been despatched to focus and extermination camps.

Poland was house to just about 3.5 million Jews earlier than World Struggle II, most of whom have been killed by German Nazi forces. However Jewish life has reemerged within the nation for the reason that fall of Moscow-backed communism in 1989.

“If this had occurred 30 years in the past, there wouldn’t have been Jewish communal establishments to supply reduction and care,” mentioned Lieberman, an American who was the founding principal of the Lauder Morasha Faculty.


Observe AP’s protection of the Russia-Ukraine battle at

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