Volodymyr Zelensky had his first official meeting with Jewish leaders since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 when he met with 32 Chabad emissaries and rabbis on Thursday night, just before Rosh Hashanah.
Zelensky also awarded medals to 15 Jewish soldiers who were present. Zelensky submitted his most recent request for Israeli military assistance at the meeting, including funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system, which Ukrainian leaders have frequently requested.
Because Iran, an enemy of Israel that is partnered with Russia, may obtain the technology, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied providing Ukraine with Iron Dome capabilities.
Zelensky included Jewish religious observance in his appeal for Israeli assistance at the meeting on Thursday.
Tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims are in the city of Uman for Rosh Hashanah to visit the burial of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a Hasidic leader who lived at the start of the 19th century. He claimed that Israeli weapons would have made it simpler for Ukraine to defend them.
Those pilgrims ignored safety warnings from both Israel and Ukraine, where many of them reside, and they went to Uman. Zelensky also delivered a message of gratitude at the occasion, which was put on by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine, a group linked with Chabad and run by Rabbi Meir Stambler.
Zelensky added, “Thanks to you, the lovely Jewish community continues to develop here. And you keep doing your part for the local Jews and the wider populace, both domestically and internationally.
Jewish communities in Ukraine have been affected by the conflict because many Ukrainians left their nation after Russian soldiers entered or moved inside it to safer areas, leaving behind an average population that is older and more in need than it was before the conflict.
While some Chabad rabbis, who make up the majority of Jewish clergy in the nation, assisted their families in leaving early on, all have since returned in accordance with the movement’s tenet that its emissaries must commit to the cities where they are stationed and remain there through thick and thin.
The conference takes place weeks after a significant moment in Chabad’s recent presence in Ukraine: the arrival of the first brand-new emissary couple there since the start of the war.
Rabbi Mendy and Mushky Halperin, who traveled with their 4-month-old son Ari, currently reside in Chernivtsi, a city in western Ukraine that has mostly avoided the brutality of the war due to its location.