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February 25, 2022 4:13 pm
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‘We Ask Everyone to Pray’: Odessa Synagogue Leader as Jewish Community Evacuates

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

A person walks his dog in front of a damaged residential building in Kyiv, Ukraine February 25, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

A leader of an historic synagogue in the Ukrainian city of Odessa gave an emotional plea for prayer ahead of Shabbat, as the Jewish community sought refuge from the intensifying assault on the country by Russian forces.

“We just evacuated the whole community, and all the children, with the pets,” said the gabbai, or sexton, of Odessa’s Great Choral Synagogue, in a Hebrew-language video circulating on social media Friday. “We ask everyone to pray that we will be able to help all the Jews for whom we are responsible, and that we will have, with the help of the God, a gut shabbos and great protection from the Blessed Holy One.”

The port city of Odessa was home to some 200,000 Jews before World War II, or a third of its population. The city’s Jewish community today numbers around 45,000.

In an separate appeal on Friday, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine called for more humanitarian aid to assist a “country under siege.”

“The Jews of Ukraine were already facing severe hardships from the rampant COVID-19 virus, many people are out of jobs who are barely getting by on a low income or meager pension, now the entire country is under attack and they are fighting for their survival,” said Rabbi Meir Stambler, chairman of the organization.

$1.6 million has already been raised toward packages of basic food, water, and essential goods being prepared for some 30,000 households throughout the country, Stambler said

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