War in the Ukraine – How we can help.

ear congregants,

This is an update on how we as a community can help those who have been affected by the war in the Ukraine.

I’d like to start with a big thank you to all who have already given generously to the different organisations I mentioned in my last email to you. Alone the one fundraiser I organised on FB raised more than £500.

But we will not stop there and have therefore partnered with the Bielefeld Jewish Community, Germany, to help refugees from the Ukraine in Bielefeld.

Since the last week Jewish and non-Jewish refugees have arrived in Bielefeld, often after a long and exhausting journey, mostly women, children and elderly people. They have nothing left than the clothing they wear. The community helps them to make their first steps in Germany, from registering with the local authorities to accompanying them to a doctor, but also to buy them basic things they need to restore some dignity and well-being, ranging from a tooth brush to a hair dryer, from toys to warm clothing.

In the forefront to provide this help, we find Rabbi Natalia Verzhbovska. Born in Kyiv, she studied at the Abraham Geiger College in Berlin and until recently served Reform communities in west Germany. She was only recently appointed the new Rabbi in Bielefeld. Her son and brother are still in the Ukraine.     

The Jewish Community of Bielefeld is part of the Reform Movement in Germany. I spent my 3rd year at Geiger as a rabbinical student in Bielefeld, which explains further the connection to Bielefeld.

Rabbi Natalia has recorded a short message to all members of our Shul, which you can below, and she will join us this Friday at 6pm for our pre-Shabbat Talk and Shabbat service on Zoom and in-Person. Please use the opportunity to meet her then. She is happy to answer all your questions.

Here is what you can do:

The Bielefeld community needs financial support for their care for the refugees. To make it as simple as possible, we ask you to donate to the Wimbledon Synagogue with the reference UKRAINE:
You can make a bank transfer to the Synagogue, details below. You can make a donation also on our Facebook Website: https://www.facebook.com/WimShul/posts/4517030908401007

sorting code 40-52-40
account number 00023035
ref Ukraine

Thank you – Every penny counts.

Hello children

As a community, we will send money to Bielefeld, which is very important, but we also want to send some love and smiles to the children and the families, who have lost everything, and I wanted to ask all children of our community, if they can help me to do that.

Can you paint for the children and families in Bielefeld a picture or write a letter? You can bring them to the Synagogue on Shabbat and Sunday or send them as an email to me: rabbi@wimshul.org.

Hosting refugees

The current situation, though it can change rapidly, is that we are still waiting to see if the Government allows refugees in, to what extent, under what conditions and how they will arrange accommodation.

However, if you are able to welcome refugees into your home, as soon as they arrived here, we recommend that you register your offer with Refugees at Home, whose website is www.refugeesathome.org.

They have a questionnaire on their website which explains how the system works and will allow you to register your details. It is a bit bureaucratic, but is a vital part of the process. Some additional information:

  • it deals with refugees in general, but if you want to take only a Ukrainian refugee, there is a section where you can specify that (or any other limits e.g. only two people…or no pets etc.)
  • someone will contact you, but they will give priority to those in major cities or large towns (simply because that is what long experience tells that refugees themselves tend to prefer, as there are more job opportunities there, as well as other facilities…and even though some of you have offered wonderful rural locations!)
  • if and when refugees come here and your offer is no longer possible for whatever reason, that is perfectly understood.

Donation of food and clothes

There are many places where you can drop off donations in kind for refugees in the Ukraine. Many links and information have been shared via the internet and social media platforms. However, we would like to ask you not to forget the local foodbanks that still need our support, urgently.

You can bring non-perishable food to the synagogue which we will forward to local foodbanks. We kindly ask you not to bring any other items to the Shul at this moment, but we might come back to you if one of our partner organisations ask for our help.

—— March 2nd ——–

Dear congregants,

The pictures of the war in the Ukraine that are dominating the news since last week have been shocking and continue to worry all of us. Many have expressed to me that they cannot believe that the horror of war has returned to the heart of Europe and are asking now how they can help to bring some relief to those impacted most.
Yesterday, I shared on Facebook the very moving video recorded by my colleague Rabbi Alexander Dukhovny who sits in a basement in a building in Kyiv.
If you had not seen it yet, please take a moment and see it here: https://www.facebook.com/alexander.dukhovny.3/videos/663938768138920
Rabbi Alexander Dukhovny is one of the three reform rabbis in the Ukraine, responsible for the 40 reform congregations and chavurot.
He speaks about the support he gets via the World Union for Progressive Judaism. If you can, please consider a donation to the WUPJ https://wupj.org/give/ukraine/
Another way to help is to support the World Jewish Relief. The British Jewish Community’s Humanitarian Agency is directing your support to partners in Ukraine and neighbouring countries, responding to their needs: https://www.worldjewishrelief.org/ 

There are many other local initiatives that need your support from the Red Cross in Poland that supports refugees to people who collect food and other articles of demand here in the UK to bring it to those in need.
Please see a list at the end of this email.

In the next few days, the first refugees will arrive also in the UK. The Torah commands us 36 times to care for and welcome the stranger, as “we were once strangers in Egypt.” Many Jewish-British families shared the ordeal of been refugees themselves in the last century and only through the helping hands and open houses of well minded people they found a save heaven in the UK. We would like to ask you to consider supporting the following initiatives that help Refugees to settle safely in the UK:

Our Bar Mitzvah for this week, Eli has picked the South London Refugee Association as his Bar Mitzvah charity as a local charity supporting a very current cause, whilst also linking to his Torah portion the experience of the Jewish people when they were in the process of migrating to a new homeland. Please visit his page on https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/eli-hipkins  if you would like to donate to this very worthwhile organisation. Eli will speak about his charity on Saturday in the service.

Our member Yvette Ball is the chair of Refugees at Home.
Refugees at Home is a UK charity which connects those with a spare room in their home to refugees and asylum seekers in need of somewhere to stay. So far it has been responsible for placing 2,593 guests with a total of 199,615 placement nights. There will be a surge of demand in the coming weeks and if you can provide a safe space, please contact the organisation. https://www.refugeesathome.org/ 

While we as a synagogue usually try not to get involved when it comes to the business of everyday politics, there are times when it is not only appropriate, but actually an imperative,  based on the core of our Jewish values. As written above, providing shelter for, and welcoming the stranger is one of these core values that are non-negotiable, and it is heart-breaking that the UK government has not yet changed its policy to grant war-refugees from the Ukraine temporary asylum, as the member states of the EU do. We ask you to write a letter to your local MP to make your voice in this matter heard and to advocate for those most vulnerable these days. 

To write to MP Fleur Anderson, please use the following contact: fleur.anderson.mp@parliament.uk, Office of Fleur Anderson MP, Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, UK 

To write to MP Stephen Hammond, please use the following details: hammonds@parliament.uk,  Office of Stephen Hammond MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, UK
(Please include your full name and full home postal address.)

There is so much you can do, but perhaps there is also something we can do for you?
I will be in the Synagogue and start the Zoom session before the Kabbalat Shabbat service this week already at 6pm, so that everyone who wants to, can speak with fellow congregants about what is happening and how they feel about it in a safe environment.
Please join on Zoom or in-person. The service itself will begin at 6.30pm and will include several prayers for peace and healing too. 

Lastly, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our care group and to me, if you need someone to speak to. 
May peace return to our world soon.

Rabbi Adrian

Collecting points for urgently needed supplies for refugees and those affected by the war in Ukraine

The Ukrainian restaurant (Prosperity) in Twickenham opposite York House is organising collections to be sent out to Ukraine.  

They’re after certain items – list follows next – which can be dropped off there.  If you’re able to donate any of the items, they would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.  
We are collecting urgently needed supplies for refugees and those affected by the war in Ukraine. if you have any of the items listed and don’t need them or can share, please donate.
They will be delivered to Ukraine by volunteers in a few days, quicker than Red Cross or other large NGOs can get there.

There are several addresses below that take donations:

– power banks (for charging phones)
– large and medium size backpacks
–  male socks
– camping mats
– sleeping bags
– protein bars / energy bars
– painkillers (e.g. ibuprofen)
– anti-flu medicine(Lemsips etc))
– wound dressing materials
– first aid kit
– warm blankets
– thermals/base layers
– hot water bottles
– insulated flasks
– baby food
– nappies
– feminine sanitary products
Note: we are not collecting clothes as there is sufficient supply at this stage.
Many thanks for your kindness in these dark hours

Collection points:
Ukrainian House
154 Holland Park Avenue
W11 4UH
Prosperity Restaurant
59 York Street, TW1 3LP
Tuesday: 11am – 6pm
Wednesday-Saturday: 11am – 9pm
Sunday  12am – 9pm
Restaurant XIX
369 Hight Street
E15 4QZ
Daily 9am – 22pm
Maria – 07561322029
Former Ussr Retail Shop
679-691 High Road Leyton,
E10 6RA
Ask for Vadim
Former Ussr Retail Shop
79-83 High Street Hounslow, TW3 1RB
Ask for Valeriy
Ussr Barking Warehouse
Unit 8 Banksidepark Industrial Estate,
28 Thames Road, Essex, IG11 0HZ
White Eagle Club, 211 Balham high Rd. SW17 7BQ.
The White Eagle Club, Balham is collecting batteries, flashlights, candles, shoes (very good condition), nappies, dry sanitary products, thermal clothes and shirts, long johns, gloves, painkillers, sleeping bags, duvets, blankets, pillows, sheets