A call for solidarity at the Seder with those who can’t attend one
Six weeks into the crisis in Ukraine, and Passover—the season of freedom—is on everyone’s minds. While Ukraine Jews hope and pray for a speedy resolution to the situation (and the world along with them), Passover preparations in Ukraine are in full swing, and Jewish communities in Europe and Israel prepare to host thousands of refugees for the Passover seders.
But rabbis and Jewish community leaders are aware of the possibility that some Ukrainian Jews will not have a Seder to attend, whether because they are hiding in a basement or shelter or are currently on the run.
“We are doing all we can to take care of the Jews of Ukraine,” Rabbi Avraham Wolff, FJC representative and director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Odessa, tells Chabad.org. “We will try our hardest to ensure that everyone has a place for the seder and shmurah matzah for their seder plate,” he insists. “Even as we pray for a swift end to the crisis and a Passover of the ultimate freedom, we are prepared for the possibility of this continuing.”
Issuing a call to Jews around the world to step up for their brethren in Ukraine, Wolff asks that every Seder dedicate—and fill—an extra chair to be filled by someone who doesn’t have one to attend. “Do it for the Jewish people of Ukraine. Reach out to a family member, neighbor or co-worker who doesn’t have Passover Seder plans and invite them to your home. Do it for those in Ukraine who may not be able to attend a Seder.”
Wolff’s call—joined by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in Ukraine and around the world—echoes a 1970 public address by the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—who was born in Ukraine 120 years ago. Deeply troubled by the plight of Soviet Jews who were unable to openly practice their Judaism or even leave the USSR, some Jewish activists had suggested leaving a chair at the Seder empty, a nod to the oppressed Jews of the Soviet Union.
The Rebbe, who understood Soviet Jewry and the Kremlin better than most, had another idea: Take that chair and fill it!
The Kremlin won’t be moved by the empty chair, the Rebbe assured. “It’ll accomplish nothing,” the Rebbe declared. “You have an empty chair? Go around your block and find Jews who don’t know how to conduct a Seder or don’t even know what a Seder is. Seat them in that chair for the Seder!”
The Rebbe’s words remain timely, says Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, director of Chabad of Zhitomir, in Western Ukraine. “Your mitzvot will help the Jews of Ukraine,” says Wilhelm, “and your solidarity by inviting another Jew to your seder table will lift their spirits.”
Based on an article by Mendel Super | Chabad.org | Photo: Rabbi Avraham Wolff of Chabad of Odessa is joining fellow rabbis in Ukraine in urging Jewish people around the world to “reach out to a family member, neighbor or co-worker who doesn’t have Passover seder plans and invite them to your home. Do it for those in Ukraine who may not be able to attend a seder.” (Credit: Hadas Porush/Flash90)