Shortly before an emotional and historic Rosh Hashana in Kharkiv, Ukraine, the city’s mayor presented an award to the city’s chief Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz for “his many years of religious service.”
Seven months of ongoing crisis have taken their toll on the city which is the second largest in Ukraine and only 40km from the border. But the Kharkiv Jewish Community has throughout ensured that the thousands of Jews remaining in the city have all their needs physically and spiritually. The new year started in Kharkiv in full force with hope and prayers that this year will bring peace and Redemption.
Thousands of packages were distributed before the holiday and Rabbi Moshe and Miriam Moskovitz, along with their children, also managed to put up mezuzot in many Jewish homes for protection. Many put on tefillin for the first time in their lives before the new year set in.
At one stop, they visited Aizik, who lives alone and since the outbreak of covid hasn’t left his home. He was so excited to be able to sit down with the children and talk of his recent experiences, sing with them, and to be able to kiss the new mezuza which will guard his home.
As Yom Tov began, Rebbetzin Moskovitz lit candles in the synagogue’s basement with the women and girls who had been living there since the beginning of the crisis. Eighteen-year-old Asya has no windows and doors in her apartment in Saltovka and as she closed her eyes with her mother and grandmother she joined in prayer that this year they should be able to return to their home in peace.
On Rosh Hashana evening, after dipping the apple in honey, ninety-year-old Misha, who has been coming to the synagogue every day since the situation began, started to sing loudly and the crowd joined him in the song ’Nyet nyet nikavo -we are not scared of anyone – only from G-d himself”.
Over 350 people- men, women, and children came together to hear the shofar and to pray for a good and peaceful year. Avinu Malkeinu…Our Father, our King, open the gates of heaven to our prayer!”
Despite the sirens and the threat of missiles and bombs – the synagogue was full. Emotional hugs and tears were aplenty as community members shared their happiness to see the community celebrating with them.
One emotional meeting was for Maya, who had come to the synagogue for the first time three months ago to get humanitarian aid and the secretary encouraged her to join the zoom Kollel women’s classes. Every Thursday over 50 women from Kharkiv, now spread all over the world, learn together the weekly Torah portion with Miriam Moskovitz and at the end of the class share their challenges. One woman has no home, the other no roof, another has a son serving in the army and another is in Israel worried about her husband still in Ukraine. Maya couldn’t believe her eyes, when just a few minutes before the Shofar blowing she met for the first time the ‘teacher from behind the screen’! Hopefully, this Thursday Maya will join all those in Kharkiv for a live class.
Prior to Rosh Hashana, the mayor of Kharkiv, Mr. Igor Terechov awarded Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, the Chief Rabbi of Kharkiv, with a medal and certificate of honor. The mayor came to the synagogue to personally give over his thanks despite his busy schedule.
The award was from the city of Kharkiv “to Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz for his many years of religious service and significant contribution to the spiritual revival of the nation and upkeeping peace in our society and for providing humanitarian aid to the people of Kharkiv in these times.”
Rabbi Moskovitz in turn presented the mayor with a beautiful shofar symbolizing redemption. “May Kharkiv only hear the sounds of the shofar and not the sirens of incoming rockets! This year is a special year “Hakhel’ – a year of unity! May this year bring true peace and unity for Kharkiv and the whole world,” he warmly wished the mayor.
Nella Kazanzhieva, the head of the Kyiv district administration in Kharkiv also came to congratulate the community on the new year. Her district has been one of the hardest hit and she fondly remembers coming to celebrate the milestones of the Jewish school and giving her thanks to the Moskovitzs for being in Kharkiv in these difficult times.