From FSU to Far East, from Prisoner to Promised Land

Stand for Israel  |  February 13, 2022

Girls in the Shanghai Ghetto, where Jews from Ukraine and Eastern Europe were held after fleeing to Asia
(Photo: wikicommons)

Born in what is now Ukraine, a place where Jewish people are again feeling threatened, this week’s Israeli You Should Know took a long route to making aliyah to Israel.

Born to Help Others

From his birth in a tiny Ukrainian village in 1885, Abraham Kaufman was meant to serve his people, God’s people, the Jewish people. His great-grandfather was the rabbi who founded Fellowship-supported Chabad, and a young Abraham soon found an interest in the burgeoning Zionist movement.

Abraham graduated medical school and found a busy career as a doctor. But in his spare time, he devoted his life to the Jewish people returning home to Zion.

Dr. Kaufman moved from Ukraine to China, where he helped 200,000 refugees after the First World War and became a leader in the country’s Jewish community.

A Holocaust Hero

The good doctor would continue his work through World War II, helping Jews when they needed it most – during the Holocaust. Kaufman used his ties to Japan to urge the Japanese government not to follow through with the same genocide that the Nazis were pursuing.

A large number of Jews fled the Nazis in Eastern Europe and settled in Asia, even in Japan. These Jews were then relocated to the Shanghai Ghetto, seen in the photo above, which the Gestapo planned to liquidate. But Dr. Kaufman worked to keep these murders from happening. Although arrested and tortured, Dr. Kaufman watched those Jews’ lives being spared before returning to his work of helping others.

Hard Labor to Holy Land

After the war, Dr. Kaufman was kidnapped and tried by the Soviets, who disliked that he had worked with the Japanese, even if his work was done in peace and to save lives. Sentenced to hard labor by the Soviets, Kaufman spent 11 years in a gulag.

After his release, Dr. Kaufman at last fulfilled his lifelong dream of living in Israel, making aliyah in 1961. And there, he continued his good work, serving as a pediatrician for Israel’s children for the final decade of his life. From his birth in Ukraine to his years in Asia, from his time spent doing hard labor under the communists to his twilight years healing Israel kids, Dr. Abraham Kaufman is surely an Israeli You Should Know.

Let all of us who stand for Israel continue to hold the Jewish people – especially those facing the threat of war in the former Soviet Union – in our hearts and prayers, helping them in their time of need.

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