Seminary Girls Welcome Ukrainian Refugees at Ben Gurion Airport

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JERUSALEM (VINnews/Sandy Eller) – More than 100 Jerusalem seminary students went to Ben Gurion airport this afternoon to greet a United Hatzalah flight of newly arrived refugees from the Ukraine.

The girls, students at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim, better known as MMY, were part of a group of about 200 who welcomed the newcomers with balloons and Israeli flags, amid joyous singing, dancing and cheering.

MMY learned about the incoming flight from student Riki Posner, a Five Towns resident, whose grandmother Susie Wiesel is a Holocaust survivor. Having heard about the ongoing war in the Ukraine, Mrs. Wiesel reached out to United Hatzalah to help with the rescue effort and mentioned that she would love for her granddaughter to be on hand to welcome displaced Ukrainians.

“This really hit home for my grandmother because she lived in Czechoslovakia and wasn’t able to get out and eventually ended up in Auschwitz during the World War II,” Posner told VIN News. “She always said that had there been an Israel during the war, there would have been a home for her to go to and when this happened, she felt it was important for the Ukrainian refugees to be able to get to Israel.”

MMY dean Rabbi David Katz said that even amid the singing and dancing, the mood was bittersweet at Ben Gurion. Seeing the refugees, who lost everything they owned, emerging from the terminal was an emotional experience for MMY student Veeta Gewirtz of Monsey, whose great-grandmother was a cousin of the Yismach Moshe, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum.

“We are here because we are Jews and we want to support other Jews,” said Gewirtz, adding, “This is the first time in history that we have seen that people actually want Jews. All through history Jews have faced rejection, where nobody wanted us, and here we are welcoming our fellow Jews who are actually wanted.”

For Tova Kam of Dallas, greeting the refugees was an opportunity to uplift people who have witnessed horrific violence.

“This is the Jewish nation at its best,” noted Kam. “These people have experienced the worst of the world and destruction, and they got off the plane and are seeing the best of the world and unity.”

The impact of the reception that the Ukrainian refugees received in Ben Gurion from the MMY girls and dozens of others shouldn’t be underestimated, said United Hatzalah founder and president Eli Beer.

“After days of traveling so depressed and so sad, and all of a sudden they see everyone welcoming them and hugging them and kissing them – it’s unbelievable,” observed Beer. “It’s like all they of a sudden they realized that they have brothers and sisters everywhere, caring about them.”

Rabbi Katz has been encouraging his students to take part in the many initiatives being launched by other young adults to aid the wave of Ukrainian evacuees. With word of the incoming United Hatzalah flight coming in five hours before its scheduled landing, a much larger window of time than usual, he quickly rescheduled classes and hired busses so that he and his students could greet the newcomers.

“In addition to doing chesed and being on the right side of history, our students will be able to tell their grandchildren that they were helping during the war,” said Rabbi Katz. “Sadly, there are millions of people in history who couldn’t say that to their grandchildren.”

Remembering how moved he was when he organized yeshiva students and seminary girls to greet Russian refugees to Israel in 1990, Rabbi Katz has been involved in the effort to help the Ukrainian evacuees. He noted that there have been ambitious yeshiva students who have spearheaded campaigns large and small to benefit the refugees.

“There are people who are buying and collecting mouthwash for them,” said Rabbi Katz. “It’s hard to believe that these people actually had good lives and homes and careers. They fled overnight and have nothing – barely the shirts on their backs. It’s hard to wrap your head around that in 2022.”

“In addition to doing chesed and being on the right side of history, our students will be able to tell their grandchildren that they were helping during the war,” said Rabbi Katz. “Sadly, there are millions of people in history who couldn’t say that to their grandchildren.”




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