I have always been proud of my brother Rabbi Labish Becker, who is executive director of Agudath Israel of America, the largest Orthodox organization in the U.S. He has been to the White House many times, led group discussions about Judaism, both in person and on video, and organized events with thousands of participants, but I have never been prouder of him than for having initiated help to rescue Jews in the Ukraine during this present crisis. It was he who suggested to his colleagues that a website be activated for raising funds to help Ukrainian Jews leave the beleaguered country and be resettled. The website actually went up a day before the invasion!
My brother, who was born and raised in Milwaukee, attended Hillel Academy and joined Agudath Israel 42 years ago. He worked in a variety of positions, until ascending to a directorship.
At this point he has become the face of Agudath Israel in trying to help the Jews of the Ukraine, which is the fifth largest population of Jews in the world. He has been interviewed, by, among others, the New York Times and the Voice of America and has received interview calls from places as far away as South Africa. In the Times interview he said: “We are all Ukrainians today.”
My brother said that at first, he was the only person involved in the fundraising and daily contact with the Ukraine. Now others in his organization have stepped in to help as well. He has been working with Jewish groups in the Ukraine, with rabbis there, with heads of schools and other personnel. He has also chaired Zoom meetings with rabbis from all over the U. S. to get their input and help with fundraising. “Prices for buses to evacuate the beleaguered Jews to safer places in the Ukraine or over the borders to neighboring countries, have risen from nine hundred dollars to ten thousand. Then, once we have gotten the people to safety we have to feed and clothe them. In most cases they have fled with literally nothing.”
“The refugees have been fleeing primarily to Poland, Moldova, Romania, and Hungary. “Many have no visas or passports, and we have to help with that as well. Then we have to help them go from their temporary havens to more permanent places like Israel or western Europe. We help them in the transition journeys and also in settling in their more permanent places. There are also many Ukrainian Jews who want to return to the Ukraine at some safer time.”
My brother said that Agudath Israel is a perfect organization to help Ukrainian Jews. “Its three goals are: education; defending the rights of Jews to practice their religion (in this they have often gone to court to see that these rights are upheld); and it is dedicated to the security of Jews throughout the world.
“So far Agudath Israel has raised about $30 million.”
For more information, visit Vaadhatzalahrescue.org/Ukraine.