One of Ukraine’s chief rabbis, Yaakov Bleich, spoke on Saturday to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone, and tweeted Sunday morning that “President Zelensky called me today and requested that every Jew in Ukraine pray for the safety of each person in Ukraine and the end to the Russian invasion of our country. The Russian invasion threatens every Jew in Ukraine.”
In a conversation with The Jerusalem Post, Bleich recalls that “I received a phone call from the president’s house and was told that he would be calling me within five minutes.” Bleich said. “When they didn’t call, I was given the [former] prime minister Volodymyr Groysman’s phone number and was asked to call via whatsapp, ‘he will pass the phone to the President.”
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“Two minutes later, the president called me and said ‘Rabbi Bleich, it’s Zelensky. Do me a favor, I need all of the Jews of Ukraine to pray for all of the Ukrainians. Please pray for the end to the Russian invasion of our country.’ I said that ‘we are already praying’, and the president said, ‘They have more soldiers than ours, but we are more dedicated.’
We spoke for a few minutes, and I told him about all of the prayer initiatives going on in Ukraine and around the Jewish world. I finalized by saying that we pray for his success and that we are very proud of his conduct.
Bleich said that the call was very emotional, “I cried when I talked to President Zelensky. I cried with excitement”.
President Zelensky called me today &requested that every Jew in Ukraine pray for safety of each person in @Ukraine and the end to the Russian invasion of our country The Russian invasion threatens every Jew in Ukraine הנה לא ינום ולא יישן שומר ישראל #StandWithUkraine @MFA_Ukraine pic.twitter.com/ot1vXLeeZj— Chief Rabbi Bleich (@Ukrainerabbi) February 27, 2022
Bleich mentioned that “the phone call was part of the president’s initiative entirely, and it shows his dedication to his people but also to religion and heritage,” Bleich said.
Zelensky, born to Jewish parents, is the first Jewish president of Ukraine and, along with Groysman who was prime minister for several months into Zelensky’s presidency in 2019, made Ukraine the only country, apart from Israel, to have both a Jewish president and prime minister at the same time.