And to quote Bari Weiss, “We live in an era in which acting like sheep has become the norm. In which cowardice is the default. In which the ideas of leadership and sacrifice seemed like dead letters.”
By Jeff Kaminsky, Founder
Why did I drop everything and come to Europe? There are Things Worth Fighting For…..
I’ve been in Europe for nearly 2 weeks and the realities of the horrors of war are quickly spreading throughout Europe. Some people are well aware while others go about their daily lives as if nothing has changed almost as if they have their heads in the sand. Berlin and most major cities of Europe closest to Ukraine are quickly being overwhelmed with the needs of those unfortunate people who have lost everything but their lives in Putin’s war against freedom and democracy. Europe is trying to do the best that they can, however as well-intentioned as they are, they cannot do it alone. There seem to be many people trying to help without having adequate places to commit their help. At times things seem very organized while at other times one scratches his head and wonders how can such a catastrophe on such a large scale be so unorganized? What exactly is the government of the United States doing to assist in this growing humanitarian crisis? I am unclear, but from my perspective, not nearly enough. If WWII taught us anything, it is that war is hell and that the only way to stop a war is to stand up and fight it with everything that you have. Bad people like Putin don’t just wake up one day and decide to be good. They must be stopped!
Why are there thousands of people standing in line to apply for assistance when the assistance office is only open on Mondays and Thursdays from 9 to 11 AM? This can’t be a staffing issue for there are plenty of volunteers who want to help! So what is it then?
Why are there dozens or hundreds of volunteers like myself who have come here to help, yet are not able to help the sick and injured who are in dire need of any help from another human being? I don’t have the answers to this question, as someone who believes in taking action, it frustrates me a great deal.
And at the same time, I’m amazed at how quickly and efficiently the tiny country of Israel has not only mobilized but has gone to Ukraine and processed tens of thousands and evacuated thousands more. There are several Israeli organizations I have seen here from JAFI to IsraAID to United Hatzalah to Rescuers-without Borders, whom (I was able to help a bit) and I have a great deal of respect for all of them.
As Ukrainian President Zelensky said the other day, “My life today is wonderful. I believe that I am needed. That’s the most important sense of life, that you are needed, that you are not just an emptiness that breathes and walks and eats something.”
But not to me. Call me crazy or insane but I felt a moral obligation to come here to do whatever I could to help. I know that my dear friend and travel companion, Dav Crawford felt the same. We believe that tyranny must be fought at any cost. And we also know that what happens in Europe today, left unchecked, can very quickly happen in America tomorrow.
As Weiss continues;
“A leader showing courage, real courage, and in doing so inspiring bravery in others that they did not think themselves capable of. Duty, responsibility, moral clarity—he is breathing life into virtues many Americans thought were on life support or already dead.”
Zelensky knows what he is fighting for. “We are all at war,” he said in an address to Ukraine. “Everywhere people defend themselves, although they do not have weapons. But these are our people. They have courage. Dignity. And hence the ability to go out and say: I’m here, it’s mine, and I won’t give it away. My city. My community. My Ukraine.”
This is what I felt and said and did when I made the decision to come here. We are already at war. For some, like those in Ukraine, the war is already inside their homes. While for others on the other side of the pond, unless you have a personal connection to Ukraine, the war is just coming down the driveway.
I agree with Bari Weiss that “I cannot help but notice the gap between them and us. Between the bigness of their vision and their mission and the smallness of ours. Between their moral clarity and our moral confusion. Between their spine and our spinelessness. Between their courage and our epidemic of cowardice. Between their commitment to civilization and our resignation to chaos.” Let me say some of these words again: “Between their moral clarity and our moral confusion. Between their spine and our spinelessness. Between their courage and our epidemic of cowardice.”
“Bearing witness to Ukraine’s answers forces me to ask some hard questions about us—questions I worry we have forgotten how to ask: How would we act if the guns were to our heads? Would we similarly feel no choice but to fight for our home, for everything we love? Would we have the courage to live by the values we profess if our backs were to the wall? Or the sense of national unity? Or have we gotten so comfortable, so coddled, so removed from the world of flesh and blood, that we have forgotten how to name those values at all?”
We are at war. And while bombs and missiles aren’t falling on the streets of America, we are absolute in an ideological war.
How this war ends, I cannot answer. But my heart breaks for every beautiful life torn upside down by this war.
I came here to do whatever I could do to help those in need. From assisting with the rescue and care of nearly 400 children, mothers, and orphans from Odessa, to raising money with the help of good people like you back home, to helping a team of very dedicated volunteers in Northbrook plan and collect several truckloads of medical supplies, food, and other necessities to ship to Europe, to offering my services to dozens of agency’s including Jewish United Fund of Chicago – JUF, JDC, the @JointDistributionCommittee, and many others.
I’ve been very close to the needs of so many. So close that ￼Last night I even took in a Ukrainian family of 4 and put them up in my hotel so that they had a warm place to stay. I didn’t know them but somehow they found me after hearing that I was here helping people through and friend of a friend and a colleague. So I helped to get them out of Ukraine and here to Berlin. And this morning I sent them on their way with some cash and connections on navigating the next steps as they try the unbelievable task of rebuilding their lives. My heart breaks for this beautiful family like so many who have lost nearly everything. I tried my best to show them some kindness and give them some dignity and a hug and make them feel some semblance of happiness, however brief. They left Berlin this morning heading to a smaller town about 600km from here, hoping to have a better chance of finding a place to make a new home.￼
I am not sharing this because I want recognition or a pat on the back or anything like that. As I write this I literally have tears in my eyes running down my cheeks. I am sharing this to give you an on-the-ground perspective of how dire and desperate and inhumane the refugee crisis has become here in Europe.
I came here because I felt a duty. I felt an obligation as a son, a father, and a human being to stand up and say NO! I will not let this insanity happen without trying to do something within my physical power to stop it and to help those in need.
To everyone who thinks that they can’t do something, please find Something to do! Please look in the mirror and ask yourself if you can give a little more? Ask yourself if you can help a little more! Ask yourself if there are things that you can live without so that others can simply live?￼￼￼￼ if you need my help reach out and I’ll do what I can.
Lastly to the dozens of people who have already donated, and to all the people back home who have stepped up and organized )Sharon May Latek, Missy Singer Lyons, Shari Kaminsky) and collected donations to send to the people of Ukraine I say a big “thank you”! You inspire me and I can tell you from first-hand experience that the people here that are suffering the most send their Thanks and their love back to you!
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