LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - The local Jewish community is rallying behind the Ukrainian people and their president as they battle an invading Russian army.
For many, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has become a symbol of resilience, resistance and resolve for staying to protect his country against the Russian invasion, led by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Rabbi David Wolpe, of Sinai Temple, explained why Zelensky has inspired so much admiration.
"One of the reasons why this strikes such a chord, I think, in the Jewish soul is that tyrants that want to destroy a nation are not unfamiliar to us."
The simple fact that Zelensky is Jewish makes his rise to power in this particular country an improbable feat, given the context of Ukraine's history during the Holocaust. It also makes him a Jewish hero.
"How proud they feel that somebody whose grandparents survived, but their entire family were lost in the Holocaust, has arisen as someone who's succeeded in mobilizing such unanimity among all the free nations of the world," Rabbi Wolpe said.
According to the rabbi, Zelensky has been the topic of many conversations and services at synagogues throughout the Los Angeles area.
"What most of the congregants have been saying, first of all, is how astonishing it is that this Jewish comedian who was on 'Dancing With the Stars' has become a beacon for the world."
Tuesday's missile attack by Russia on Babi Yar, a memorial site in Ukraine marking the location of one of the largest mass killings of Jews during the Holocaust, was a sobering moment for many.
"That is why it is very important that millions of Jews around the world do not remain silent right now," President Zelensky said in response to the attack.
Rabbi Wolpe said that Zelensky's response was an inspiration.
"That a Jew who is president of the Ukraine where this happened asked Jews to stand up and say, 'This is wrong,' it was, I think for us, a defining moment of courage
and of resistance."
The Ukrainian President's appeal to his fellow Jews has had a wide reach. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles organized a Ukrainian-Jewish relief fund with the goal of raising more than $1 million to help refugees fleeing the country is already close to meeting its goal.
Rabbi Noah Farkas is the President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of LA.
"This first $1 million that we're going to use to help the Jewish community in Ukraine is just the beginning. This need is so deep and so broad that everyone who could possibly give should try to give," he said.
A true testament to how far Ukraine has come since World War II is a Pew Research Poll, conducted in 2019, that found that it was the most accepting of Jews among all Central and Eastern European countries.
for more features.