Prayers for Ukraine at Babi Yar Park

Mar 28, 2022

Guest post by Rolando Kahn, JEWISHcolorado Digital Media Manager

The grey clouds above us matched the solemn mood of the crowd as we arrived at Babi Yar Park in Cherry Creek, a site dedicated to the many Jewish lives lost at the hands of the Nazis in Kyiv, Ukraine, 1941-1943. It would have been a warm day if not for the cloud cover, but those clouds ensured that the temperature was just right. A crowd, with many clad in blue and yellow and carrying Ukrainian flags, stood surrounding the stone circle at the center of the park. Inside the circle sat Denver City Council Member Kendra Black, several interfaith leaders, a cello player, and members of the local Ukrainian community. 

The crowd listened as Rick Williams, a Native American leader, took his turn speaking, sending his prayers into the air. Williams was followed by several rabbis, punctuated by applause. My small group of friends stood silently, tears in their eyes. What hit home for me was the moment of silence.

A mournful cello broke the silence, and the music reflected the heavy sense of emotion that hung over the gathering. I imagined I could see the energy we were sending into the steel-colored sky, and I felt our collective will to see an end to the violence swirling around us in the atmosphere: prayers for loved ones, hopes for peace, and endless love for a nation fiercely fighting for its freedom. 

The war in Ukraine has taken its toll. Not just on the people of Eastern Europe, but on everyone and anyone with access to news. It’s impossible to dodge the headlines, news spots, and radio hosts all buzzing about the latest updates. In many ways, staying in the loop makes us feel ironically helpless as we watch buildings come crashing down and train after train of refugees, bursting with women, children, and the elderly, arriving in neighboring countries.

But, as Rabbi Emily Hyatt said to the hushed crowd on Sunday, we can help those most impacted by the war by donating our time, energy, and money.

We may not be able to put an end to the battles directly, but we have the power to provide support, and we can be the voice in Ukraine’s ear that says, I am with you. 

Babi Yar Park teaches a universal principle: “When one group of people is harmed as others remain silent and indifferent all humankind suffers.” To quote Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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