Photo Credit: Roman Hrytsyna via Volodmyr Zelensky Telegram feed
Flooding following the destruction of one of the largest water reservoirs in Ukraine, June 6, 2023

Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries are taking the lead in trying to rescue as many Jewish families as possible as they face the threat of losing their homes after an explosion destroyed the Nova Kakhovka Dam in southern Ukraine earlier this week.

Russian forces are continuing to shell the area, even as Ukrainians flee the flooding.


It’s still not clear whose operatives blew up the dam. Russia and Ukraine are each accusing the other of creating the manmade natural disaster that sent flood waters rushing through the streets of Kherson, a port city divided between the invading Russian occupiers and the defending Ukrainian armed forces.

Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Yossi Wolf, emissary to Kherson, told the Hebrew-language Chabad Online (COL) site that hundreds of thousands of homes are expected to be completely destroyed.

Wolf has been leading the effort to rescue Jews who live in the overflowing river, bringing them to safety on higher ground.

The rabbi’s synagogue is located just 2,500 feet (800 meters) from the bank of the Kosheva River, but is at least 20 meters above the water level and thus in no danger from the floodwaters.

Just 600 to 700 Jews are still living in the city where once there were thousands more. Most fled as the invading Russians rained missile fire on the city.

“We are also checking where individual Jews are living in the small villages around the area, to rescue them as well,” he said.

“We are working according to lists and checking house by house. Hundreds of thousands are going to lose everything they had in life,” he lamented.

Surrounding villages are being evacuated, with at least one – Korsunka – now completely under water, according to the BBC. Three other villages reportedly were flooded up to the rooftop level.

Tens of thousands of people are living in the affected areas, Zelensky said in a message on his Telegram feed, warning that “hundreds of thousands have been left without normal access to drinking water.”

About 80 villages are estimated to be in the potential flood zone.

The huge Kakhovka reservoir, which began emptying with the breach of the dam, is used to provide water for cooling at the Zaporizhzia nuclear power plant – the largest in Europe — and to farmers and residents, along with people living in Crimea.

The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is “closely monitoring” conditions at the nuclear plant, says that so far there is “no immediate nuclear safety risk.”

Zaporizhzia’s Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, Rabbi Nachum Erentroy, told COL the situation was quiet on Wednesday morning, “but very, very tense due to the worsening of the fighting. Things could change at a moment’s notice.

“Stock up on food, medicine and blankets and prepare for any scenario,” he advised.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.