As the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Messianic Rabbi Michael Schiffman assumed his Torah class would be canceled.

“If there’s ever a good reason to cancel a class, that would be it,” he remarked. From his Florida home, Rabbi Schiffman teaches a Sunday afternoon Torah study over Zoom for students in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Despite the war, his students still wanted to meet: “The studying means very much to us. We love your teaching, and we want to learn.” Unfortunately, falling bombs made it impossible to continue the class, and so long as the war continues, the future of the Zaporizhzhia Torah study seems uncertain.

Ukrainian Refugee Crisis

Rabbi Dr. Michael Schiffman has a prominent role in the Messianic Jewish movement, serving on the MJRC (Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council). Dr. Schiffman is also the executive director of Chevra, a humanitarian organization that provides food security to hundreds of displaced Ukrainian Jews as well as relief aid to people of all faiths in the war-torn areas of the former Soviet Union. The recent war in Ukraine has effectively closed down the soup kitchens sponsored by Chevra, but they have shifted their efforts to address the refugee crisis spilling into Ukraine’s neighbors. The refugees are mostly women and children, as Ukrainian men remain behind to fight against the Russian army. “The backup of traffic is thirty miles from the border. Women and children are walking in freezing temperatures. People are hungry and cold, walking for miles. It’s not like you can stop at McDonald’s,” Rabbi Schiffman explains.

To meet the need, Chevra has coordinated with international ministry partners to ship semitrailer loads of essential supplies to the Polish border. They have secured warehouse space to store the shipments and organized a small army of workers to help distribute them. “We’ve also arranged places, such as school gymnasiums, where people can sleep indoors. It’s part of a larger international effort. We have partners in ministry from Holland and Germany. We are doing what we can up to this point.” Chevra has also been working with airlines to arrange flights to Israel for Jewish refugees wanting to leave Eastern Europe.