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American Rabbi shares story of fleeing Ukraine in Mequon

Posted at 10:26 PM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-08 17:30:41-04

MEQUON, Wisc. — An American-born Rabbi shared his story of fleeing Ukraine where he has been living with his family for more than a decade.

Rabbi Yisroel Silberstein spoke to an audience in Mequon Wednesday night at the Marcus North Shore theater. He was a guest of Chabad-Lubavitch of Wisconsin.

Rabbi Silberstein was born in Brooklyn, NY but moved to Ukraine more than 12 years ago. Working with the worldwide Chabad organization, Silberstein lived in Chernihiv, an eastern Ukrainian city near the Russian border. The city was one of the first to see Russian forces on their way to the capital city of Kyiv.

On Feb. 24, he recalls waking up to the sounds of bombs going off not to far from his home.

“Bombs were falling literally 500 meters from our home,” he said, “We moved down to our basement makeshift bomb shelter.”

Silberstein, his wife and 9 kids, along with another family, lived in that basement until he and others made the difficult decision to leave their adopted home of Ukraine.

“It was very (challenging) because we wanted to be there for our community and balance that with protecting our family,” said Silberstein.

The trek from Ukraine took more than a week. The family and others made their way to Moldova, then Romania where they worked to set up a shelter for others.

“We were like the pioneers making the road so others can follow,” said Silberstein.

Eventually his family traveled to Hungary, Turkey and finally the United States.

Silberstein says he sees the disturbing images from Ukraine on the news, but tries to focus on the images of people working to help those still in the country. He says while he and his family got out, there are many still left behind.

“We’ve got a lot of people that need help," he said. "We are going to care for them. We won’t give up.”

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