In Underground Meeting, Zelensky Takes Pride in Rebbe’s Birthplace


In an unprecedented move, Ukraine’s Jewish President Volodymyr Zelensky met with shluchim in the underground shelter of Kyiv’s Jewish school in a meeting organized by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine (FJCU).

By staff

In an unprecedented move during the ongoing war, Ukraine’s Jewish President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the Jewish school in Kyiv.

The visit, which took place ahead of Pesach and also marked the birthday of the Rebbe who was born in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, 122 years ago, was organized by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine (FJCU).

President Zelensky was welcomed at the ‘Simcha’ Jewish school operated by Chabad in Kyiv. The welcoming party included Chabad emissary and FJCU chairman Rabbi Meir Stambler, his assistant Rabbi Raphael Rutman, and the school’s directors, Rabbi Moti and Devorah Leah Levenhartz, among other educational staff. The Levenhartz couple, both originally from Israel, have been pivotal in the significant Jewish revival in eastern Kyiv.

During the visit, President Zelensky participated in a “model Seder” where students demonstrated the Seder plate and explained its significance. One of the students who greeted Zelensky was Vitaly Tachmazov, whose parents have been active on the front lines since the war began; his mother was severely wounded. Recently, at the age of 16, Vitaly underwent a bris and adopted the Jewish name Chaim.

Rabbi Meir Stambler highlighted the historical significance of this meeting, noting it as the first time President Zelensky visited a Jewish educational institution, and the first community building visit since the war began. Previously, rabbinic meetings with him were held in the presidential bunker.

During his visit, President Zelensky remarked, “Many in Ukraine and Israel will celebrate Passover, the Festival of Freedom, in shelters,” emphasizing the need for freedom both here and there, and the necessity to overcome evil. He also praised the uniqueness of Chabad emissaries who remained in the country, supporting both the Jewish community and all citizens. “Faith gives us strength. Passover is the festival of freedom, we believe in miracles. The Russians want to destroy us as they did the Israelites in Egypt, but we are confident we will see our own miracles both in Ukraine and Israel,” he stated. Zelensky also expressed pride that the Rebbe was born in Ukraine. This meeting was strategically held in a shelter due to prior security arrangements by the Ukrainian Security Service.

Subsequently, President Zelensky met with Ukrainian rabbis, led by Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky, shliach and rabbi of Dnipro. Rabbi Kaminetsky presented the President with matzos from the ‘Tiferet HaMatzot’ bakery, under his supervision, discussed the transformative global and Jewish impact made by the Rebbe, and the special relationship and honor given to Dnipro, where the Rebbe’s father, Harav Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, served as chief rabbi.

Rabbi Sholom Gotlieb of Mykolaiv where the Rebbe was born, discussed the preparations in his city. Rabbi Avraham Wolf of Odessa, shared with the President the preparations for the Seder night in his city amidst the challenges of war. Chief Rabbi of Kharkov, Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, shared the Rebbe’s vision for the final geulah.

The meeting also included Rabbi Yonasan Markovitz of Kiev; Rabbi Yaakov Jean of Uman; Rabbi Shlomo Mordechai Bold of Lviv; and Chabad emissaries from across the country: Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm of Zhytomyr; Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Wolf of Kherson; Rabbi Dan Zekhuta of Kropyvnytskyi; Rabbi Shneur Shneurson of Rubizhne; Rabbi Yossi Segal of Poltava; Rabbi Moshe Tahaeler of Berdychiv; Rabbi Yechiel Shlomo Levitansky of Sumy; Rabbi Yossi Glick, head of the yeshiva in Dnipro; Rabbi Simcha Levnehartz; Rabbi Shaul Horowitz of Vinnytsia; Rabbi Meir Holzberg of Bila Tserkva; Rabbi Sholom Ber Gopin of the refugee community in Kyiv; Rabbi Daniel Leno of Kyiv; Rabbi Mendy Gotlieb of Lviv, and others.

After the speeches, Rabbi Stambler presented the President with the first copy of a Haggadah translated into Ukrainian, bound in leather and embossed with the President’s name, “Volodymyr Zelensky.” This new translation reflects the preference for Ukrainian over Russian language that emerged since the war began. A translated Book of Tehillim was already given to Zelensky a year ago.

Meanwhile, Jews in Ukraine are preparing to celebrate their third Pesach under the shadow of war as free as possible. The Federation’s large logistics center in Dnipro completed distributing holiday packages to 45,000 Jewish households across 169 communities this week. Volunteers began before Purim to package 45,000 boxes with Pesach items.

In addition, public sedorim will be organized in 41 major cities, with an expected participation of about 20,000 Jews on both nights of yom tov.


In keeping in line with the Rabbonim's policies for websites, we do not allow comments. However, our Rabbonim have approved of including input on articles of substance (Torah, history, memories etc.)

We appreciate your feedback. If you have any additional information to contribute to this article, it will be added below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

advertise package