Ukrainian Nuclear City Just Got a Spiritual Protector

The Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, known for its nuclear power plant which has been targeted in the ongoing war, has inaugurated a new Mikvah to serve the community. A shelter was built beneath the structure to ensure the visitors’ safety.

Just days before Pesach, the Jewish community in Zaporizhzhia celebrated the inauguration of a new Mikvah complex.

Construction of the mikvahs began four years ago, but then came the COVID-19 pandemic, disrupting all plans. “Suddenly, the coronavirus came and dried up all our plans,” says Rabbi Nachum Erentroy, the city’s rabbi and Chabad emissary, “and when we started to recover from the virus, we were hit by the recent crisis that has recently marked two years since its beginning.”

The fact that Zaporizhzhia hosts a nuclear power station made it one of the most challenging destinations. “There were moments when it was clear that this city was going to be abandoned, that everything here would go up in flames, attacks day and night, non-stop, with immense damage,” described Rabbi Erentroy.

As days passed, more and more residents fled the city or left the country’s borders. The Jewish community also suffered a severe blow. According to community records, two-thirds of the community left before the crisis.

“We realized at some point that the entire plan for building the Mikvah was becoming history because there wouldn’t be a single person left here. But in parallel, an interesting phenomenon occurred: local Jews who had hidden their Judaism began coming to the synagogue for prayers, and today our community stands at two thousand people. It’s a third, but now the atmosphere is less communal and more familial-individual. Everyone now knows each other,” Rabbi Erentroy said.

In the end, Rabbi Erentroy and his wife Dina, decided to fight for the community’s existence, and as a central sign of this, they decided to continue building the Mikvah. “Interestingly, the local non-Jewish neighbors were enthusiastic about this construction. When everything in the city froze and was covered in gloom, it was the Jews who were building. They said to us, ‘If the Jews are building, it’s a sign that the crisis will end.’ They see this construction and building as a sign of optimism and peace. We also received encouragement from things said in the past by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, in whose name and mission we operate here, that building a Mikvah brings security to the entire city.”

Due to the situation, changes were also made in the construction of the Mikvah. “The plan, of course, changed, and we built a large shelter beneath the Mikvah complex,” Rabbi Erentroy explains, “both to give people a sense of security and to save their lives in case of alerts. We named the Mikvah ‘Mey Batya’ after my mother-in-law, Mrs. Minsky, who was very devoted to the women of our community.”

The construction of the Mikvah was supported by Rabbi Erentroy’s rabbinic colleagues from across Ukraine’s cities, led by Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetzky, the rabbi of Dnipro. “We have close support from the FJC and Chabad network in Ukraine, JRNU, which is with us all the way, all year round. This network helps us with everything – from psychologists for Jews coping with crisis difficulties to basic necessities and countless aid channels.”

The Mikvah complex was built in the synagogue compound. “We are about to start building a dairy and meat restaurant for the Jewish community,” Rabbi Erentroy said, noting that “these days we are completing preparations for the upcoming large public Seder. We have a very big mission ahead of us, and we hope to accommodate the large number of people turning to us.”

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