Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky convened with 32 Chabad emissaries and esteemed rabbis, representing the diverse tapestry of the nation's Jewish communities, in a momentous gathering on Thursday. This event, orchestrated in anticipation of the Jewish New Year, marked President Zelensky's maiden interaction with Jewish leaders since the inception of the protracted conflict, which has persisted for nearly 600 days.
President Zelensky's heartfelt appreciation resounded as he expressed, "Thanks to you, the illustrious Jewish community, with its rich history, thrives here. You contribute not only within Ukraine but also beyond its borders, benefiting both the Jewish and broader populations."
As the meeting concluded, President Zelensky released a resolute statement, affirming, "On the Eve of Rosh Hashanah, I met with representatives of the Ukrainian Jewish community, fighters, and rabbis. Thank you for supporting our country and our pursuit of peace. True peace can only be achieved through Ukraine's victory. We believe in our ability to restore a just and equitable peace to Ukraine as soon as possible."
The Jewish community's role in Ukraine is crucial to its survival during wartime
At the outset of the gathering, Zelensky, who shares Jewish heritage, expressed deep gratitude for the pivotal role played by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Ukraine (FJCU), the organization that orchestrated this significant assembly. He also commended the unwavering commitment of the Chabad rabbinic emissaries who, despite having the option to depart, chose to remain in Ukraine and continue their crucial work.
Rabbi Shmuel Kamintzky, Chabad emissary and Chief Rabbi of Dnipro, a city renowned as "the capital city of Ukrainian Jewry," shared profound insights into the significance of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. He extended his felicitations to President Zelensky for his dedication to the nation and expressed deep appreciation for his unwavering devotion to all its citizens. Rabbi Kamintzky declared, "You are a true leader, and the Jewish communities wholeheartedly support you in Ukraine's struggle of light against darkness. The Jewish population here has united its destiny with Ukraine and is actively shaping its future."
Rabbi Meir Stambler, Chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Ukraine (FJCU), who orchestrated this historic gathering, highlighted that the 32 rabbis in attendance represent over 200 families of Chabad emissaries residing in Ukraine.
Stambler underscored, "We confront challenges we never anticipated, just like you, Mr. Zelensky. Alongside our families, thousands of volunteers, and hundreds of community leaders, we strive to assist everyone during these difficult times. We were raised to give and be dedicated to others."
Stambler added, "Tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Jews will celebrate the Jewish New Year, and without a doubt, the support we receive from the authorities will encourage more Jews to attend synagogues in the 180 cities and towns across Ukraine. We pray and hope that the coming year will be a year of peace and tranquility, and a year of redemption."
Rabbi Avraham Wolf, Chief Rabbi of Odessa and Southern Ukraine, reflected on the meeting's poignant moments, saying, "When the President blessed us in Hebrew with the repetition of Shana Tovah, the tears in the eyes of the rabbis emphasized their great excitement."
Rabbi Moshe Moskowitz, Chabad emissary and Rabbi of Kharkiv, likewise emphasized the ongoing struggle against darkness and drew inspiration from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rabbi, who saw the fall of communism as a precursor to the Messiah's era. Moskowitz noted, "35 years after communism, we have cultivated a flourishing Jewish life here, despite all challenges. This illustrates that redemption is within reach."
Additional speakers included Rabbi Moshe Azman, representing the rabbis of Ukraine, and Rabbi Yaakov Jan, Rabbi of Uman. Rabbi Jan expressed gratitude to President Zelensky for facilitating the annual pilgrimage to Uman and earnestly appealed for his intervention on behalf of Jews currently stranded at the borders. In response, President Zelensky expressed his hope for "greater support from Israel," which would "facilitate Ukraine's task of accommodating the tens of thousands expected to visit Uman."
Moreover, the Jewish Relief Network Ukraine (JRNU), the umbrella organization representing Jewish communities in Ukraine, reported that community rabbis and Chabad emissaries have been actively preparing for the upcoming holiday month. A source at JRNU explained, "They have devised a comprehensive plan of activities for the entire month. JRNU has steadfastly supported these Jewish communities throughout the conflict, providing unconditional assistance, including humanitarian aid, food, medicines, and various essential supplies."
Currently, Ukrainian Jewish communities are gearing up for the holiday season, with a well-organized production system in place. According to JRNU, "JRNU leaders have been overseeing this effort, which is poised to benefit over 50,000 Jews across the country, ensuring they can celebrate the holidays in a proper and meaningful manner."