ODESSA, Ukraine—Rabbi Avraham Wolff is preparing for war.

He has bought enough sugar, macaroni and canned goods to feed his congregation for a year, he said. He has hired about 20 Israeli security guards in case rioting and looting break out. And if the Russians do invade, he said he has mapped out the city’s bomb shelters and has enough buses on standby to evacuate 3,000 people from the Black Sea port city of Odessa.

“This is why I’m gray at 50,” said Rabbi Wolff, the leader of one of the two main Jewish congregations in Odessa. “God willing, there will be no war, but we don’t have the right to not be prepared.”

Throughout the country, many Ukrainians have been slow to get ready for the gathering threat posed by the estimated 190,000 Russian troops at their borders, partly out of exhaustion from eight years of grinding war with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. But some Jewish communities are alarmed, particularly here in Odessa, where successive waves of violence, from Jewish pogroms in the early 20th century to mass executions by the Nazis in World War II, have left indelible scars.

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