Purim among Ukrainian Refugees in Vienna

March 31 2022

In response to the refugee crisis stemming from the war in Ukraine, Yeshiva University’s president, Ari Berman, travelled to Vienna to assist, along with a group of 28 Yeshiva students. He writes of the experience:

Two weeks ago, my two oldest sons and I walked past the balcony of the Hofberg Palace in Vienna. It was on that balcony on March 15, 1938, that Adolf Hitler announced the Austrian Anschluss [annexation] to Nazi Germany. I showed my sons the grainy black and white video of his speech as we stood there, chilled with disbelief. Moments later, we met with Wolfgang Sobotka, the president of the Austrian National Council, whose grandfather was a Nazi. Sobotka has forged his own path as a leader in the fight against anti-Semitism and as a champion of the Viennese Jewish community. Today, Sobotka and his country are sheltering 1,000-2,000 new Ukrainian refugees a day, including hundreds of Jews.

Virtually every Jew I know is a refugee or a descendant of refugees. And so, when we saw Ukrainians forced to pack their bags and flee their country, we knew it was time to pack our own bags and go where we were needed.

The Viennese Jewish community of 8,000 has already taken in 500 Jewish refugees from Ukraine and is expecting an additional 1,000 in the weeks ahead.

Our visit took place during the week of the Jewish holiday of Purim, a celebration of how Queen Esther saved her people from an attempt to rid the ancient Persian empire of its Jews. Purim is typically celebrated in costume, so when we traveled to Vienna, our students brought close to 500 Purim costumes and duffle bags full of toys and decorations. Mostly, they brought spirit; they danced and sang so that refugees, many of whom had only been in Vienna for a few days, could still experience the holiday in its fullness.

Read more at First Things

More about: Austrian Jewry, Purim, Refugees, Vienna, War in Ukraine


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria