You can help Knoxville rabbi’s cousin who saved hundreds from Ukraine

“We definitely feel safe, definitely compared to what was going on in Ukraine,” Esther Wilhelm said.
How to Help Ukraine Refugees in Israel
Published: Mar. 21, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - After 27 years in Ukraine, a family, a children’s home and others have relocated to Israel. They left a war-torn community, but are unsure of their next steps.

“It’s been hard to feel like we’ve left that all behind,” Esther Wilhelm said. “We’re still disoriented I think, trying to settle in as much as it is possible in a place which is still temporary.”

For a few weeks Esther Wilhelm, her family, and more than a hundred kids from a children’s home she and her husband ran, along with others in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, have been settling into a campsite in Israel. They are staying in cabins and have little belongings with them. The housing, food and laundry are free for now.

“We definitely feel safe, definitely compared to what was going on in Ukraine,” Esther Wilhelm said.

They relocated to a mountainous village outside of Jerusalem. The younger kids from the orphanage were adapting while the older kids felt anxiety about the lack of stability and asked about going to school.

The adults were trying to schedule half educational and half recreational programming, bringing in teachers and activities. While her husband, Shlomo Wilhelm, helped, from afar, the people back in Zhytomyr get their food and medicine.

“We’re really living day-by-day,” Esther said.

East Tennesseans can help by donating.

“When I ask my husband how much money do you think we’re going to need? There’s no end to it because it’s helping people rebuild their lives,” Esther said.

Rabbi Yossi Wilhelm was a Knoxville leader who was a cousin to Esther’s husband. He believed giving creates a wave of good.

“It’s our way of smiling to them, of giving them a tap on the back and just you know telling them how we feel for them, we pray for them,” Yossi said.

“We don’t really know what the future holds for us. Because if the war ends tomorrow we’ll also have to make decisions. Nothing is taken for granted,” Esther said.

The Wilhelms know they have helped many people, but are unsure of how long they will be in Israel.

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