Amid Advancing Armies, Sumy Jews Add Light at Shliach’s Jubilee

As the Russian military advances close to the Jewish community in Sumy, they are busy with loftier matters preparing a surprise for their beloved Rabbi’s surprise jubilee birthday.

Last Friday, the Russian military launched a new offensive in the Sumy region of northern Ukraine. According to reports, the Russians aim to capture the region in the coming weeks to increase pressure on the nearby city of Kharkiv, a key strategic location. Despite the ongoing conflict, the Jewish community of Sumy celebrated Rabbi Yechiel Shlomo Levitansky’s 50th birthday with a special gift.

Amidst the tense situation, Rabbi Levitansky, the shliach and chief rabbi of Sumy, continues to aid hundreds of Jewish residents living on the frontlines.

On Sunday, 50 Jews from the city, most of whom do not regularly attend shul, gathered to put on tefillin in his honor. Among them were several karkaftas. Additionally, 50 women from the city came to the Chabad house on Friday evening to light Shabbos candles together.

Rabbi Levitansky remarked, “In Ukraine, a 50th birthday is considered a major celebration, a ‘jubilee.’ Therefore, as a Chabad shliach, it was natural for me to celebrate this day by encouraging more mitzvos and I asked the Yidden of the city to participate. Many friends asked what gift I wanted for my birthday, and when I saw the interest this generated, I requested they join in putting on tefillin. This is the greatest gift a Yid can wish for on this day.”

During the celebration, which evolved into a farbrengen, three men decided to have a bris and immediately contacted a mohel to schedule one.

Regarding the tense situation in Sumy, Rabbi Meir Stambler, chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Ukraine, stated, “The fact that Rabbi Levitansky remains in the area with his family, despite the situation being as dire as at the beginning of the war, demonstrates once again the dedication of shluchim who do not abandon their communities and stay in the country despite the tangible danger.”

He added, “The touching gift Rabbi Levitansky received from the Jews of the city shows the deep bond between the rabbi and his community and how they understood what would bring him the most joy.”

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