08 April 2022

Jewish Museum in Kraków
takes practical steps to help
refugees fleeing Ukraine

Inside the Galicia Jewish Museum in the Old Synagogue, Kraków … practical suggestions to help refugees fleeing Ukraine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

As the war continues in Ukraine, with millions fleeing their homes, the World Jewish Congress reports this week that, eight decades after World War II and the Holocaust, dozens of Holocaust survivors in Ukraine have been forced to flee war again. Many have received refuge in Germany. They have been brought to safety with the help of the JDC and the Jewish Claims Conference, which negotiates compensation for Nazi victims and their descendants.

Reports say Jewish organisations have helpedto evacuate around 50 Holocaust survivors from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on 24 February.

Meanwhile, Jewish Heritage Europe (JHE) this week shared an open letter sent recently to Jewish museums in Europe by Jakub Nowakowski, director of the Galicia Jewish Museum, in the Old Synagogue in Kraków.

In his letter, he questions the role of Jewish museums in this time of crisis, urges assistance to refugees — and he proposes concrete ways that Jewish museums and other institutions can do so.

In his letter, Jakub Nowakowski asks what is the role of a Jewish Museum during a humanitarian crisis, particularly during a bloody war in a neighbouring country.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, over 150 000 refugees have arrived in Kraków, a city of 900,000 inhabitants, and over 2.2 million throughout Poland.

The situation of most of these people is dramatic, Jakub Nowakowski says.

He points out that at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Kraków, they have been trying to help both the refugees, and people on the other side of the border, since the beginning of the crisis. This has included collecting funds, sending medical supplies, but also opening a day-care centre for the Ukrainian children.

‘Those children and their parents needed much help. From simple creation of a safe and welcoming space, to offering regular meals, to creating opportunities to play with pairs, to providing supplies, clothes, shoes (most escaped in a heavy winter clothes and shoes), to offering medical support, to offering English and Polish classes, to providing physical and psychological therapy.’

He goes on to say that at the Museum ‘we understand that it is not only the children who are in need of help. The underage escaped Ukraine, in most cases, only with their mothers, who are now equally lost, traumatised and vulnerable. While some of these people have a shelter, offered by inhabitants of Kraków or in the night shelters run by the municipality or various NGOs, some are homeless. The vast majority of them are unemployed, and living off whatever little savings they have.’

The museum staff are also trying to help by providing paid jobs. This includes hiring two full time teachers to run the day centre, but also hiring those who can provide additional activities for the children in that day-centre. ‘This includes all sorts of programming like drawing classes, gymnastic, dance lessons, but also physiological and emotional therapy.’

He says that all of these people are refugees who escaped Ukraine since the outbreak of the war. ‘All in all, at this point we have eight refugees on a pay list, three of them full-time, five of them part-time. This number is likely to go up, if only we will be able to secure the necessary funds. All of the contracts, with exception of one, are short term (month long), but will be prolonged for at least another month, and further, again – depending on the situation in Ukraine and the available funds.’

At this point, most of the costs related to hiring these new employees are covered through generous support from foundations and individuals all over the world.

The museum is receiving applications and messages every day from refugees who are looking for temporary jobs. He suggests other museums and partner institutions could offer such an opportunity. ‘Perhaps you could use a person working at the reception or bookstore? Or perhaps in the Education Department.’

On this Friday evening, it might be worth asking: Do you know a museum or foundation that could help with preparation for relocation or getting necessary permits for refugee status or working in another country?

Shabbat Shalom

Praying at the Stations of the Cross in
Lent 2022: 8 April 2022 (Station 6)

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus … Station 6 in the Stations of the Cross in the Church of the Annunciation, Clonard, Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

We are in what is often known as Passion Week. Before today day begins, I am taking some time early this morning (8 April 2022) for prayer, reflection and reading.

During Lent this year, in this Prayer Diary on my blog each morning, I have been reflecting on the Psalms each morning. But during these two weeks of Passiontide, Passion Week and Holy Week, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Short reflections on the Stations of the Cross, illustrated by images in the Church of the Annunciation, Clonard, Wexford, and the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the lectionary adapted in the Church of Ireland;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Station 6, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus:

In an unusual arrangement, the Stations of the Cross in the church in Clonard are set in the curved outer wall of the church in 14 windows designed by Gillian Deeny of Wicklow. In her windows, she emphasises the role of women in the Passion story.

Her windows were made in association with Abbey Glass, where she worked with the cut-out shapes of coloured glass, the pigment being a mixture of lead oxide, ground glass and colour. Each window is signed by the artist.

The Stations of the Cross on the north and south walls of the nave in Stoney Stratford were donated in memory of John Dunstan (1924-1988).

The Sixth Station in the Stations of the Cross has a traditional description such as ‘Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.’ Veronica is not a Biblical or historical figure, but her name reminds us of every woman who takes a stand for truth, even when great personal costs and risks are involved.

I was staying at Glenstal Abbey when I heard the news that the journalist Veronica Guerin had been murdered on 26 June 1996. She first wrote for the Sunday Business Post and the Sunday Tribune, and began writing about crime for the Sunday Independent on 1994. She was shot dead while she was stopped at traffic lights near Newlands Cross, on the outskirts of Dublin. She was due to speak two days later at a conference in London on ‘journalists at risk.’

Her murder caused national outrage in Ireland, and the Taoiseach John Bruton called it ‘an attack on democracy.’

Her name and those of 38 other international journalists who died in the line of duty in 1996 were added to the Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, in 1997. In 2000, she was named as one of the International Press Institute's 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the past 50 years. The Veronica Guerin Memorial Scholarship at Dublin City University offers a bursary for a student following the MA in Journalism who wishes to specialise in investigative journalism.

Her husband Graham Turley has said: ‘Veronica stood for freedom to write. She stood as light, and wrote of life in Ireland today, and told the truth. Veronica was not a judge, nor was she a juror, but she paid the ultimate price with the sacrifice of her life.’

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus … Station 6 in the Stations of the Cross in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

John 10: 31-42 (NRSVA):

31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus replied, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’ 33 The Jews answered, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’ 34 Jesus answered, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said, you are gods”? 35 If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods”—and the scripture cannot be annulled— 36 can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’ 39 Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. 41 Many came to him, and they were saying, ‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ 42 And many believed in him there.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Meeting the Invisible.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana Do Brasil. The prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (8 April 2022, World Health Day), invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Episcopal Church in America and their links across the world.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org