In Ukraine, Jews Celebrate Purim With Muted Joy

Holiday goes on in cities despite crisis

Wearing a wide-brimmed sombrero and colorful poncho, Kherson’s Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Wolff, stood in the city’s beautiful renovated synagogue clutching a Megillah.

All around the city, there were food shortages and restrictions on movement, but for a few brief moments on Purim eve, there was “light, joy and celebration” in the timeless words of the Megillah scroll that the rabbi read aloud for the few who attended services.

It was a similar scene that repeated itself in dozens of FJC and Chabad synagogues all over Ukraine. The crowds were smaller than usual, and the somber mood of the nation was palpable, but so was the joy.

In Odessa’s main synagogue, several dozen worshippers—mostly men between the ages of 18-60—wore neon-green plastic hats and goofy sunglasses, allowing the Purim levity to provide a brief respite from the stresses of daily life in Ukraine.

They were led by Rabbi Avraham Wolff, who recently returned to the city after accompanying a convoy that included the 120 children of the Mishpacha Orphanage to safety.

“We will read the Megillah, we will pray, we will masquerade, and we will rejoice,” Wolff told Chabad.org on Tuesday. “Everything will be as joyous as possible.”

In Kiev, under strict curfew, attending synagogue service is impossible. Yet community workers such as Daniel, have made arrangements for as many people as possible to observe the holiday nonetheless.

In the central city of Dnipro, where bombings had picked up in recent days, the crowd of revelers filled the cavernous sanctuary of the Golden Rose Synagogue and the overhead balcony as well. In addition to locals, the crowd contains people from all over the country who had taken shelter in the adjacent Menorah Center, the world’s largest Jewish Community Center, which has been a hub for refugees on their way west to safety.

Recognizing that many Ukrainian Jews are alone this holiday, the congregation live-streamed the service so that others could experience their joy vicariously, too.

In the central city of Dnipro, where bombings had picked up in recent days, the crowd of revelers filled the cavernous sanctuary of the Golden Rose Synagogue and the overhead balcony as well.

In the heavily damaged city of Zaporozhye, videos posted to social media showed that those assembled passed around a charity can into which they tossed the traditional three coins known as Machatzit Hashekel, showing that even in the most dire situations, caring for others is always possible.

Rabbi Mendy Glitzenstein returned to the town of Chernivtsi in Western Ukraine, two weeks after evacuating with his family to help his community celebrate Purim.

In a video posted to social media, Glitzenstein is seen at the Jewish preschool with a group of youngsters who are dancing and making music to celebrate Purim. The kids also received mishloach manot packages of treats. He came, he said, to share the joy of Purim, despite the situation.

While the main mitzvah of Purim eve is reading the Megillah, on the following day, holiday observance also includes distributing alms to the needy and sending food packages to friends and neighbors. With the current humanitarian crisis, there is no doubt that there will be no dearth of takers.

Rabbi Menachem Glitzenshtein rejoined the Jewish community of Chernovtzy, Ukraine, for Purim.

Based on an article by Menachem Posner | Chabad.org

Latest News

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Facebook