Jews in Hungary, Moldova, Poland Celebrate Purim with Ukrainian Refugees

Even if not physically, we can fight the war spiritually,” Chief Rabbi Shlomo Köves said.

 Celebration of Purim in Hungary with child refugees from Ukraine. (photo credit: Elena Markov)
Celebration of Purim in Hungary with child refugees from Ukraine.
(photo credit: Elena Markov)

Hundreds of refugees from Ukraine attended a Purim ceremony at the Zsilip Jewish Cultural Center in Budapest on Wednesday night, where they heard stories from the Book of Esther.

Prior to the religious program, the EMIH-Hungarian Jewish Alliance held an event in Jászai Mari Square, where Chief Rabbi Shlomo Köves told the crowd that they too could add in the effort to fight the war.

“Even if not physically, we can fight the war spiritually,” Köves said. “Just as a miracle happened 2,500 years ago and the persecuted survived instead of being destroyed – they were saved – let us hear our voice and ask for peace. With the noise of the grogger we suppress the voice of war, we try to draw the attention of the people, the decision-makers, to the fact that nothing good can be achieved with war. We try to draw the attention of God to hear our voice.”

A special Russian-language ceremony for Jewish refugees from Ukraine was also organized at the Zsilip Jewish Cultural Center and Synagogue, where hundreds of Ukrainian refugees listened to Megilat Esther. Then, before a concert by Rabbi Pinhas Tsinman, who fled Kyiv, they could hear Torah explanations from Rabbi Oberlander Báruch, the Hungarian leader of the Chabad-Lubavich movement. At the end of the event, the refugees were treated to a rich festive feast.

The guest of honor was Rabbi Pinhas Tsinman, of Belarusian descent who fled Kyiv. He is also a popular performer in the Jewish community, singing about Jewish life in a reggae style. He reported on his life at the event, and how he and his family fled Ukraine.

 Celebration of Purim in Hungary with child refugees from Ukraine. (credit: Elena Markov)
Celebration of Purim in Hungary with child refugees from Ukraine. (credit: Elena Markov)

Then he sang the Hebrew song “Think Good and It Will Be Good,” which was also chosen as the motto of the occasion.

At the event, representatives of the EMIH institutions and invited celebrities, including actress Mónika Ullmann and photographer Luca Göbölyös, read excerpts from the megillah. When the name of Haman was uttered, it was accompanied by the loud noise of groggers from the audience.

Thousands of Jewish refugees seeking to immigrate to Israel have been absorbed into the Jewish Agency’s immigration centers operating in countries bordering Ukraine. Many of the refugees are women and children who left behind their husbands and fathers and fled the war.

The refugees were given a bed and hot meals, and are now waiting to immigrate to Israel. This week they had moments of joy in a variety of activities conducted by Agency volunteers who work in the aliyah centers, and in the activities of local organizations in the Jewish communities.

Elena Markov, a coordinator of travel and discovery programs in Kharkiv, now volunteers with Jewish refugees at the Jewish Agency’s Aliyah Center in Hungary. 

“A particularly exciting moment was when each child told what he wanted to dress up to on Purim, if they could choose any costume in the world,” Markov said.

Sofia Polotovskaya, a Jewish Agency volunteer at the Aliya Center in Romania, told how she “decorated the hotel lobby together with the children, played happy music, danced with the children, and gave them balloons. Because there are no costumes, we gave each child a regular white COVID-19 mask and markers.”

The Jewish Agency, in cooperation with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, operates a network of immigration centers in the countries bordering Ukraine – Poland, Moldova, Hungary and Romania – in order to absorb the flow of Jewish refugees and assist those seeking to immigrate to Israel. To date, about 6,000 Jewish refugees have been absorbed into the aliyah centers. 

Despite the horrors of the war in Ukraine, the Jewish refugees in Kishinev, Moldova, celebrated Purim in the best way possible. Hundreds of Jewish refugees from Ukraine who were absorbed into the Jewish community of Moldova were able to celebrate Purim with proper joy along with members of the Moldovan Jewish community.

The Purim celebrations took place at the Radisson Hotel in Kishinev in collaboration with the Inbar and Marius Nacht Foundation. After the reading of the megillah by Moldovan Rabbi Pinchas Salzman, a huge Purim feast was held at the hotel for hundreds of refugees and members of the local community, for whom there were also activities for children, and lively Jewish music. The event was attended by Kishinev Mayor Ion Chevan.

Throughout Purim, several megillah readings were held in the Agudat Israel Central Synagogue, in the four refugee centers in hotels, and in the special tent complex set up by the community when the war broke out.

“We rarely manage to feel the events of the megillah story,” said Rabbi Salzman. “During this Purim, we felt a part of the Jewish and world history.”