An Israeli-Ukrainian rabbi is making history in the country, becoming the first to be appointed as the official rabbi of the country’s 171 prisons. Rabbi Jonathan Markovich, rabbi of Kyiv and the Chabad emissary in the Ukrainian capital, will be responsible for the religious services in all prisons throughout Ukraine and will provide religious services to Jewish prisoners. Jewish activities in the prisons in Ukraine will be managed by his son, Rabbi Ariel Markovich.
The appointment comes after a long activity in the prisons in the Kyiv region, in cooperation with the ALEF organization and Rabbi Lipa Boyarsky, who helps Jewish prisoners worldwide, made more difficult during the year of war with Russia.
In recent months, Markovich worked with the office of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, the head of the president’s office, Justice Minister and the management of the prisons, to explain the importance of religious services for the Jewish prisoners.
On Monday night, the official ceremony was held at the Justice Ministry in Kyiv, by the director of the prison service in Ukraine, Sergey Gerchenyuk and his deputy, Natalya Rybalka, in which Rabbi Markovich accepted the religious responsibility for Jews in prisons throughout Ukraine.
Prisoners to receive educational, spiritual and moral support
As part of the new position, the rabbinate of the prisons under the direction of Ariel Markovich will be responsible for providing educational, spiritual and moral support to prisoners, providing religious services that include Jewish holidays and festivals, as well as humanitarian aid throughout the year.
“We thank the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, and the head of his office,” Rabbi Jonathan Markovitch said on Wednesday. “This important appointment proves the respect given here in Ukraine to every person regardless of who they are, the care for everyone regardless of their religion and their social status. Even citizens who make mistakes and commit inappropriate acts, are entitled to fair treatment and receive an opportunity to correct their ways and fulfill the mitzvot [commandments] of their religion.”