Hundreds of children have been evacuated from Jewish orphanages throughout Ukraine –with rabbis and volunteers desperately loading kids onto transport buses as Russian bombs and missiles rain down on the country.
Roughly 120 children from the Mishpacha Orphanage in Odessa arrived in Berlin on Friday in time for Shabbat services after a thousand-mile bus journey which took them through Moldova, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. The facility is named for the Yiddish word for “family.”
“The kids — the youngest of which was 35 days old — were freaked out. We realized there was no way we could keep them in the city anymore. We had to get them out,” Chabad Rabbi Avraham Wolff, the chief Rabbi of Odessa told The Post.
Wolff, 52, spoke to The Post while actively loading more evacuees onto buses for transport out of the country. He’s planning to leave soon too — but vowed to return for additional rescue missions. It’s unclear how many children remain to be evacuated, but at least 10 buses are scheduled to leave Odessa Saturday.
“The roads are crazy packed and there’s crazy traffic, but we were able to arrange police escorts,” the rabbi said — adding the the biggest issue was many of the kids lacked travel documents and even birth certificates.
Chabad chapters throughout Europe have been absorbing thousands of refugees in Germany, Poland, France, Cyprus, Austria and Hungary and large refugee camps have been established in Romania and Moldova, Chabad spokesman Moti Seligson said.
A similar story played out Tuesday when more than 100 Jewish orphans from Ukrainian city of Zhitomir crossed the border into Romania — that group is now bound for Israel.
“Six days in the midst of a difficult war in Ukraine, and there are moments when words are not enough,” gushed Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid. “More than a hundred Jewish orphans from Ukraine crossed the border this evening at a Siret crossing in Romania. Our consul Roni Saturn was there to receive them, and help them cross the border.”
Israel — which is obliged by law to take accept all 200,000 Ukrainian Jews — has already seen hundreds arrive, with thousands more on the way. They are not providing assistance within Ukraine, but are facilitating border crossings and flights into the country, said Itay Milner, spokesman for the Israeli consulate in New York.
“Israel is always ready to adopt new [Jewish refugees],” Milner added. “We are ready for that, but we are not encouraging it.”
Chabad, which operates in more than 100 different counties and territories, has already raised and distributed more than $12 million to finance evacuation efforts. The Mishpacha orphanage alone has collected more than $400,000 in donations.