‘I know you’re with us’

"Hope is how we work today to achieve better times."

Rabbi Sergio Bergman (left) in conversation with Vic Alhadeff at Emanuel Synagogue on Monday.
Rabbi Sergio Bergman (left) in conversation with Vic Alhadeff at Emanuel Synagogue on Monday.

“UKRAINE right now is an example of how the Jewish people can really be one.” So said Rabbi Sergio Bergman, president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) in Melbourne this week.

At a private event for the United Israel Appeal’s Progressive Appeal on Tuesday, the visiting Argentinean rabbi – in a podium interview with Peter Kohn, senior journalist of The AJN – emphasised that Jews around the world need to be proactive to lend a hand to stricken Jews in Ukraine, and help provide them safe passage out of the country – and an opportunity to make aliyah.

“That is what we are doing right now. We have a network of some 12 cities in Ukraine where there are Progressive Jewish communities.

“Our task right now is to get buses, to get emergency money, medicine and food – and move people across the border.

“This is a time of action – but you can’t do it alone,” he added, and Progressive Jewish communities in Ukraine are working together with HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), the Jewish Agency for Israel and other organisations.

“Everything’s changing. Now, for example, Poland is a safe place, where we’re moving our people … we have Progressive rabbis in Poland, we have safe houses.”

Rabbi Sergio Bergman (right) in conversation with Peter Kohn.

But beyond that, “we have a future and a home in Israel … And tonight, with our appeal, we are supporting both our worldwide network and our centre of inspiration, the future for our people, the State of Israel”.

While in Melbourne, Rabbi Bergman is meeting with Netzer, discussing Jewish issues relating to climate change, and attending Shabbat services.

In Sydney, Bergman was in conversation with former NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff. The pair were introduced by Union for Progressive Judaism co-president David Knoll, where Bergman discussed moving Jewish Ukrainians to safety and offering them a new life in Israel, saying both are key goals requiring support from the Australian Jewish community.

“Od lo avda tikvateinu – we never lose hope – but hope isn’t something passive, a wait for better times. Hope is how we work today to achieve better times,” Bergman said.

In a reference to the UIA Progressive Appeal, Rabbi Bergman said, “We have solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine – to move them to cross the border to a safe place. And also, on the other side of the border, Israel is waiting for them. To do this, we don’t just need your support, we need your involvement, for you to become ambassadors to explain what’s happening.

“We have to say ‘we are one, we are a family’ … global networking gives us the opportunity to take a proactive and positive role,” he emphasised.

Attendees at Emanuel Synagogue and on Zoom were shown a video message from Rabbi Alexander Dukhovny of Kyiv’s Reform congregation Hatikvah, recorded in a basement shelter in the Ukrainian capital.

“Your help and support which you’re giving via the emergency call from the World Union for Progressive Judaism … is so important for Ukrainians and for Jews of Ukraine who are still here in Ukraine like I am, to be safe and to promote the values of Judaism and the values of humanity,” he said.

“It’s a difficult time. I’m very emotional, but I know that you are with us.”

To support the UIA Progressive Appeal, which includes the Ukraine Relief Fund, visit upj.org.au

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