By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
Yet the final hours before Passover found the chief rabbi for Kyiv and Ukraine in a cemetery.
Rabbi Moshe Azman doesn’t know how many Jewish people have been killed in Russia’s invasion. But on Friday, on a rural hillside, he buried one more. “People of all nationalities, they are in this tragedy,” he told The Associated Press news agency.
The dead man was from Bucha, the town near Kyiv now known for mass killings apparently carried out by retreating Russian forces. The killed Jewish man last posted on his Facebook website page in the earliest days of March. His body was only recently found after the Russian military withdrew.
No family attended his burial, and the rabbi didn’t know where they are. “He was a quiet man,” the rabbi said. “A very good guy.” He had reportedly been shot, and his body showed signs of possible torture.
This Passover, “I pray to God he will make miracles, the way he made miracles for the Jewish people in Egypt,” Azman said. The Ukrainian people would like to be free of the Soviet Union, where he was born. “I don’t want to go back,” the rabbi stressed.
Rabbi Azman then rushed back to the capital to preside over a wartime Seder in the basement of the main synagogue, one of the few that had stayed open throughout the Russian invasion.
Ukrainian Jews across the country, like the small group around Rabbi Azman, as well as those now living as refugees in Europe, celebrated Passover. They received supplies of kosher food and online services provided by American charities.
Before the war, Ukraine was home to one of the world’s largest Jewish communities of around 200,000 people, of which nearly 10,000 had survived the Holocaust. Many thousands of Jews have fled the Russian assault, while Jewish sites, including schools, have been damaged or destroyed by Russian shelling.
During the Passover celebration at the Brodsky Synagogue in Kyiv, the rabbi recalled the Jews escaping enslavement in Egypt. He said there is a parallel this year in Ukraine’s struggle to repel Russia’s invading army.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett asked Russian President Vladimir Putin last month to ensure a safe and smooth passage from Ukraine and Russia for Jews seeking to immigrate to Israel, media reported.
Putin was said to have warned Bennett during their meeting in Russia not to provide Ukraine with anti-aircraft, anti-missile, or any other kind of weaponry. And for now, Ukrainian Jews are among those facing hardship again.
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