Ukraine’s Only Female Rabbi Among Jew Refugees Who Fled Russian Invasion
March 14, 2022
Rabbi Julia Gris — Ukraine’s only female rabbi — is among the more than 1.5 million refugees who have crossed the border into Poland in recent weeks following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.
Gris, 45, reached Poland with her 19-year-old daughter Izolda after a 20-mile walk and nearly two-day wait at the border.
“There were so many stories, so much crying and so much pain,” she said. “For those who are here, and even more so for those still in Ukraine.”
Before the war, Ukraine was home to an estimated 200,000 Jews. Gris — who was born in Bryansk, Russia — led the Reform synagogue Shirat ha-Yam in the Black Sea city of Odessa.
Gris fears Jewish life in Ukraine will never be the same, even after the fighting ends.
“I don’t know when I can go back,” Gris said. “Or if I will go back.”
Gris noted she had never experienced antisemitism in her more than two decades of living in Ukraine.
“My heart and soul is with Ukraine,” she said.
Gris was ordained at the Leo Baeck College in London, and she hopes to continue on from Poland to the United Kingdom.
She recalled how her mother, who still lives in Russia, did not believe that Russia had attacked Ukraine.
“I had to tell her yes, I can hear the sirens and the bombs myself!” Gris said.