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Henderson rabbi returns from relief trip to help Ukrainian refugees

Dave Berns/KNPR

A group of rabbis recently visited Krakow, Poland to support an estimated 150,000 Ukrainian refugees who had been displaced by the Russian invasion of their native country.

Rabbi Sanford Akselrad of Congregation N'er Tamid in Henderson was among those who participated in the trip.

He joined rabbis from the U.S., Russia and Israel, who provided moral and pastoral support, relieving volunteer workers and comforted orphans who have lost their parents to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The rabbis reportedly saw refugees –-men, women and children--- worn and weary, each carrying just one piece of luggage, according to a news account filed by the Religion News Service. The rabbis visited with city leaders and toured Krakow’s community center.

One rabbi was quoted as saying: “I’ve been a rabbi for 30 years, and I’ve seen death, pain and tragedy. This was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.”

"It's one of those trips, where the purpose among many was to bear witness, and therefore it changes you forever," Akselrod said. "People, you saw that look on their faces, the devastation that occurred in their lives and in our country. And so I think about that each day, 'Are things better? Are things worse?"

Oftentimes, he said, Poland was a stepping stone to another place. There were about 1.5 million refugees at the time in Poland, but it's more like 7 or 8 million who were displaced. 

"That meant, almost overnight, they had to figure out a way to welcome these refugees, provide them places to live, ways to work, money to live on, or to make their way to another country," Akselrod said.

In about two weeks, the group of about 27 rabbis raised more than $800,000, and brought food. They mey with Ukrainians via translators.

"We wanted them to know that they were not forgotten," he said.

Sanford Akselrad, rabbi, Congregation N’er Tamid

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Dave Berns, now a producer for State of Nevada, recently returned to KNPR after having previously worked for the station from 2005 to 2009.