Watching a War Half a World Away

Hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged U.S. lawmakers Wednesday morning to institute a no-fly zone over Ukraine and send more weapons to stave off Russian attacks, a small crowd of rabbis, Jewish-Americans, and Ukrainian-Americans gathered in front of the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., to protest the war.

Rabbi Gilah Langner from Arlington, Virginia, approached the mic Wednesday afternoon and spoke of the Fast of Esther, a three-day fast that began Wednesday that celebrates the Jewish people’s liberation from genocide as told in the Book of Esther. “Esther called for it at a time of great personal and communal peril in response to the genocidal plans of a power-hungry, arrogant, and evil official named Haman,” she told the crowd as one rally attendee passed around a poster for others to write down their names alongside their ancestral hometowns in Ukraine. 

“Today we face a modern day Haman,” Langner  said in a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose soldiers have been killing Ukrainian civilians with impunity since the war broke out late last month. 

The country’s rising death toll is poignant for Darian Diochok, a U.S. veteran of Ukrainian descent whose 52-year-old nephew is serving in the Ukrainian military after two initial failed attempts to volunteer. “The third time they said, ‘We need all the help we can get,’ and they gave him a battalion to command,” Diochok said in an interview.

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