For the first time since the war broke out, Ukraine’s Jewish President Volodymyr Zelensky invited all the country’s shluchim to a pre-Rosh Hashana meeting at the presidential palace.
By Anash.org reporter
Photos: Ukraine’s Presidential Office
For the first time since the war broke out, Ukraine’s Jewish President Volodymyr Zelensky invited 32 shluchim and community heads for a pre-Rosh Hashana meeting at the presidential palace.
President Zelensky began his remarks with a greeting to all the Jews of Ukraine in the run-up to the new year. He offered praise for all the help of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Ukraine (FJCU), and shluchim, who remained in Ukraine even though they were able to escape, despite the continuation of the bloody war.
“Thanks to you, the glorious Jewish community with its long history continues to prosper here, and you continue to contribute your part both inside Ukraine and outside it, both for the sake of the Jews here and for the sake of the entire population,” the president said.
The chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Ukraine, Rabbi Meir Stambler, who arranged the meeting, said, that the 32 rabbis present at the meeting are representatives of over 200 families of Chabad Shluchim living in the country who linked their fate with the place where they reside.
“We deal with things that we never thought we would deal with – like you, Mr. Zelensky – together with our families, thousands of volunteers and hundreds of community leaders, to help each and every one of us in this difficult time, but we were brought up to give and be devoted to others,” Stambler said.
He was followed by Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky who spoke about the essence of Rosh Hashanah, congratulated the president on his work for the country, and told him that he greatly appreciates his investment for the sake of all citizens. “You are a true leader and the Jewish communities support you and Ukraine with all their might, in the war of light against darkness. The Jews who live here have tied their fate with Ukraine and are contributing to its future.”
Rabbi Moshe Moskowitz, the shliach and rabbi of Kharkiv also mentioned the war against darkness and mentioned the words of the Rebbe who saw the fall of communism as a sign of the Moshiach’s time. “35 years after communism, we have developed a Jewish life here that flourishes despite everything, and this shows that redemption is just a moment away.”
Other rabbis who were present at the meeting also spoke. Rabbi Yaakov Jan, rabbi of Uman thanked Zelensky for his help in bringing the crowds to Uman and asked for his personal intervention on behalf of Jews who are now stuck at the borders. Zelensky, for his part, said that he would have expected Israel to help Ukraine more, and if it had done so, it would have made it easier for Ukraine to host the tens of thousands expected to arrive in Uman.
Later, Zelensky was moved to hear Rabbi Yosef Teitelbaum, rabbi of the city of Hamlintsky in the western part of the country. Teitelbaum, who spoke fluent Ukrainian, said that he has been living in the country for about five years, during which time his two children were born, and according to him, he has connected with the country and the residents, he does not feel any anti-Semitism and enjoys full civil rights and freedom of religion and worship, as exist only in a few countries.
Beyond the speeches of Zelensky and the senior rabbis who participated in the meeting, 15 Jewish soldiers from various cities, selected from a list of hundreds of outstanding Jews, received Zelensky special marks of excellence for their bravery at the front.
Before the awarding of the medals, Rabbi Yakov Siniakov – who is responsible on behalf of the federation for contact with Jewish soldiers – spoke to those present, telling about what he saw at the front and applauded Zelensky’s work.
At the end of the meeting, Zelensky issued a statement stating: “On New Year’s Eve, I met with representatives of the Ukrainian community, soldiers and rabbis. Thank you for supporting our country and our desire for peace. Peace can only be achieved through the victory of Ukraine. We believe that we will be able to return a just and fair peace to Ukraine as soon as possible.”