Australian Russian Jews feel the heat

March 10, 2022 by Features Desk
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Melbourne’s Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann received many calls from distressed Russian Jewish community members living in Australia reporting unpleasant incidents of abuse due to the situation in Ukraine.

Rabbi Kaltmann in Ukraine

He told J-Wire: “They have described increasing hostility and reported that some of their children have been bullied at school due to Russia’s actions against Ukraine.

This is devastating.

While the Russian government certainly deserves to be criticized for its invasion of Ukraine, there is a key difference between the Russian people living here and the Russian Government! I understand that tensions right now are running high and that people are extremely worried about friends and relatives overseas who are still trying to flee the conflict, but we need to keep our reactions in check.

Sometimes, in a hurry to make a point we can harm others with our words and actions. So let me say this loud and clear: Russian people living in Australia should not be demonized or mistreated due to the actions of the Russian Government. Every single person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

We are currently in the week before Purim, the most joyous and wonderful Jewish festival. Purim, for all its festivities, also includes an important message of achdus (unity), one in which we support each other. The Mitzvot built into Purim include giving charity to the poor, delivering Mishloach Manot, having a Purim Seudah and listening to the Megillah. All these activities are community-focused. They are not solitary Mitzvot, rather, they depend on fostering cohesion and community.

Its important that we should not be taking out our frustrations on regular people. Purim is a time for unity, one where we celebrate the deliverance of the Jewish people from great threats to their survival. From the story of Purim, we learn that things can turn around and right themselves, even if it seems impossible.

As we reflect on an increasingly divided world, one which feels infinitely closer to conflict after the latest round of fighting in Ukraine, we must remind ourselves that the world stands for three things: On Torah, On Avodah (work) and on Gmilut Hassadim (acts of kindness).

Each of these principles ensures that the world functions, because without any of these foundational building blocks society will cease to function and operate.

During this difficult time, we need to increase our kindness to each other. People are going through difficult times. The world is going through a rough patch. But we also know that our faith tells us to increase our acts of goodness and kindness and to remind ourselves that we have it within our ourselves to be kind to people around us.

My hearts and thoughts are with the people of Ukraine.”


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