Kherson’s rabbi soldiers on as his congregation drains away

Rocket fire is a daily feature of life in the Ukrainian city and now with the flooding Dnipro River adding to the hardship, 90 percent of the Jewish population has left the city

Based on an article by PAUL CAINER | The Jewish Chronicle
Photo: Rabbi Yosef Wolff in front of a rocket-damaged building in Kherson (Photo: Paul Cainer)

Rabbi Yosef Wolff’s SUV screeches to a halt as we cross the rebuilt bridge leading into the flooded city of Kherson.

He races to the back door of the vehicle, pulls out a flak-jacket and straps it on expertly, before buckling on a black helmet — both acquired, he says, from Israel.

Flooding in Kherson (Photo: Paul Cainer)

“I have strict instructions to wear these all the time I’m inside the Kherson warzone,” the rabbi explains.

“I got those orders from my mother — and I have never disobeyed her in my whole life.” Seconds later he has his mother on WhatsApp video, confirming he is following her instructions.

“In your article, don’t describe me as The Rabbi Who Always Listens to his Mum — though that’s true,” he pleads. “Describe me please as a soldier, yes, but a soldier of the Rebbe.”

As a 21-year-old newly qualified Chabad rabbi, he recalls, he had two choices: to join his 22-year-old brother, the Chabad shaliach (emissary) already in Kherson, or take up an offer in Los Angeles. “I asked the Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem Schneerson]. He said: go to Kherson.

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