NEW ALBANY, Ohio (WCMH) – A Rabbi from central Ohio has returned home after helping Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
Rabbi Howard Apothaker spent five days helping at shelters, helping refugees figure out train directions, and sometimes doing what he could to bring smiles to children’s faces.
“The situation is constantly changing,” said Rabbi Apothaker. “The infrastructure has to grow and get smaller and grow again so every day there’s a different issue and a different way to handle it.”
He went on the trip with 29 other Jewish clergy from the United States, Europe, and Israel. Their work was coordinated by the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Krakow, according to Rabbi Apothaker.
His grandparents are from Ukraine. “The main thing I feel today is that I’d like to do another five days next week and another five days the week after that,” he said.
He took about 200 pounds of supplies including baby formula powder, lotions, and tennis balls and other small toys kids could play with. He got back to central Ohio the night before Passover. Ukrainian refugees are very much still on his mind.
“It’s almost impossible for me to identify with somebody who is on the run. I’ve never been on the run. But what I can do is be present for them,” he said.
The table for Rabbi Apothaker’s table is set. The holiday commemorates the Israelites escape from slavery in Egypt. Some parts of the special text read for Passover are resonating with Rabbi Apothaker a bit more this year.
“In every generation a person is to act as if he himself came out of Egypt. Here, people are coming out of an Egypt and we wanted to be something on the other side of that Red Sea,” he said.
“The other big line in the Passover Haggadah is to make sure you have an extra seat at your table, may all those who are hungry come and eat. You can talk those lines or you can do the deed.”
He spent time volunteering at and around Poland’s border with Ukraine and hopes his trip inspires others to help.