Exactly 3 months since the war began, shliach to Kharkov Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, and his son, returned to the decimated city for the first time.
Three months ago the war began in Ukraine and day after day the city of Kharkov, the second-largest city in Ukraine was hit with missiles, bombs and rockets.
For over a week the Moskovitz family together with ten other families of Chabad shluchim stayed in the city and began a massive humanitarian operation to help those in need with food, shelter and medicines.
As the bombing intensified so did the need to help more and more people throughout the city to get the food and supplies they needed. People streamed into the synagogue for safe shelter and buses began evacuating those who wanted to get to safer areas in Ukraine and over the border.
Once a missile hit next to the Moskovitz home and the windows and doors were blown out of the kindergarten and school the reality of the danger of the war increased and the families grabbed whatever they could and started the long journey on vans and buses to the border of Moldova.
Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, who was sent by the Rebbe to Kharkov in August 1990, went at 6 am to the synagogue amid sounds of artillery fire and bombing. He went over to the Aron Kodesh giving a kiss to the curtain with a prayer to G-d to return. The van was delayed as the bombing continued and finally they made it out of the city with their children and grandchildren and a few suitcases with whatever they could take. As the van made its way out of Kharkov they said the prayer for traveling with the children, and they repeated together in tears the line “vesachazireinu leshalom…and return us in peace”…hoping that soon they would be able to return.
Throughout the past months, the Moskovitzs have continued to oversee the humanitarian programs and life-saving help in Kharkov. Sending hot meals to homes and urgently needed medications. Daily people come into the synagogue for help and a hot meal and people continue to live in the ground floor shelter where they have a safe and secure place to be.
With thousands of refugees leaving Kharkov the shluchim have expanded their focus on helping not only those in Kharkov but also the many who have escaped to other cities in Ukraine, Europe and Israel.
And just last week the Ukrainian forces managed to free nearby villages in Kharkov from where the constant bombing was destroying building after building in the city. For the first time, the city had a few days of quiet. The subway which has been a bomb shelter for over 15,000 people will again start running.
And the Moskovitzs took a van for 15 hours from Moldova, passing burnt-out buildings and roadblocks on the way back to Kharkov. As the news spread Rabbi Moskovitz answers the nonstop calls of excited community members, one of which makes up to meet him on the highway next to Poltava to give him a quick hug. They make up to meet in Kharkov as they must hurry on to get to the city before the curfew begins.
Pushkinskaya 12. The Kharkov Synagogue.
Exactly 3 months since the war began Rabbi Moskovitz walks into the majestic synagogue.
The line is long to give a hug, share the excitement and put on tefillin. So much to say and so much to be grateful for. The people who have been sheltering in the basement come to say thank you for saving their lives. The packages of food are on their way to go out to hundreds of homes and Rabbi Moskovitz gets a chance to thank the drivers who have risked their lives to ensure that the food and medicines are delivered all over the city. To the cooks who have been living in the synagogue since February 24th. He sees off a bus taking people out of the city to Moldova and on to Israel. He wishes them well and ensures them that the community will help them wherever they go.
And then he walks over to the Aron Kodesh. Gives a small kiss. We are back. Thank You. Vesachzireinu leshalom.
To help the Kharkov Jewish Community continue its vital work and help them rebuild donate via Jewishkharkov.org/donate
VIDEO: Rabbi Moskovitz returns to the Synagogue: