In Monday’s Daily Dispatch, we reported on the rocket attacks that occurred in Mariupol, Ukraine, over the weekend, killing 30. Now Chabad, one of The Fellowship’s major partners in Ukraine and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, tells how the attack has left the country’s Jewish community in even greater danger:
Shabbat-morning prayers were about to start at the synagogue in Mariupol, Ukraine, when the rocket barrage came.
“The whole synagogue was shaking; we knew right away this was very serious,” says Rabbi Mendel Cohen, the seaside city’s rabbi and Chabad-Lubavitch emissary.
Moments after it ended, the synagogue’s security guard, Vlad, came running in with the news: Mariupol had been hit by a massive and sustained rocket attack in the Vastochni neighborhood of the city. When the dust had settled, the attack left 30 civilians dead and more than 100 wounded, marking Mariupol’s bloodiest day since last May and a significant escalation in the war in eastern Ukraine.
Fired from multiple-rocket launchers, the Grad rockets landed on a large neighborhood that includes a bazaar and marketplace, schools, apartment blocks and a bus station, located only some three kilometers away from the synagogue …
“Many people in synagogue on Shabbat were from that neighborhood,” states Cohen. “You can imagine what it sounded like here; there were screams, we had to calm people down…”
“Right away, there were a lot of people who wanted to leave, and we began making plans to help them do that,” says Kaganovsky by phone from Mariupol. “If you saw pictures of the attack, you would understand; it was awful, and people were scared.”
Through funds allocated by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, one bus of Jewish community members left Mariupol on Monday night, arriving early on Tuesday in Zhitomer in western Ukraine.