Violent eruptions over the weekend between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian forces in Odessa leave tensions high among the city’s residents, but said Mrs. Chaya Wolff, Chabad representative to Odessa, it is mistaken to think that everyone’s packing up and leaving.
“There’s real tension and we are concerned for everyone’s safety. So we’re keeping all options on the table in the event it becomes necessary to evacuate.”
For now, Chabad representatives city wide are taking extra precautions, trying to calm frayed nerves and stay focused on normal activities. Beefing up security at all of the Chabad and Or Avner institutions which remain open, the Wolffs, like other locals, are hoping that the violence will subside quickly.
Speaking by phone with lubavitch.com on Monday afternoon, Wolff said that 80% of students in its educational system came to school on Monday. Instead of the usual 300 Jews who attend services on Shabbos, there were 100 who refused to miss services. The unpredictable outbreak of street battles are disruptive and frightening, she explained, but they are not targeting Jews.
With a Jewish population of roughly 50,000, Odessa’s Jews play a vital role in the city’s infrastructure. Asked about politics, Mrs. Wolff maintained that she has no interest in weighing in with her opinion. “The Jewish community has never been involved in politics and will work well with whichever government will be elected. We just want to be able to continue our educational and social activities, and live productively in a peaceful environment.”
Rabbi Avraham and Chaya Wolff settled in Odesssa in 1992, and have since built a vibrant Jewish community, including two orphanages, a network of preschools and day schools, a college program, a center for the elderly, synagogues, mikvahs, and soup kitchens.