Zelensky launched Hanukkah in Ukraine by lighting a menorah

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky joined Chabad emissaries for the Hanukkah candle lighting in Kyiv, showcasing unity and resilience amidst the ongoing conflict with Russia. 

Organized by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine (FJCU) and led by Rabbi Meyer Stambler, the ceremony was a significant moment of spiritual solidarity, according to a statement by FJCU. The presence of key figures such as Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky of Dnipro, Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz of Kharkiv, and Rabbi Moshe Asman of Kyiv emphasized the Jewish community’s integral role in Ukraine, while putting their differences aside 

Highlighting the event, President Zelensky lit the first Hanukkah candle. Reflecting on the ceremony, President Zelensky shared later on X, “The sacred Hanukkah lights, lit these days, remind us once again that light always prevails over evil. And of the value of life, which is worth fighting for. My best wishes to the Jewish community on Hanukkah!”

A presidential kippah

After shaking the rabbis’ hands At the beginning of the meeting, Stambler and his deputy, Rabbi Raphael Rothman, presented the president with a Menorah as well as a kippa on which “Adoni Hanasi” (Mr. President) was written in Ukrainian, with the state emblem.

Kaminetzky lit the lit thr menorah together with the president. Kaminetzky later said: “The war in Ukraine is a Hanukkah miracle of our time, the few defeated the many”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Ukrainian rabbis on the first night of Hanukkah. December 7, 2023. (credit: President’s office of Ukraine)

JRNU’s contribution to cultural preservation

After lighting the candle, the president spoke with the rabbis and expressed to them his appreciation for their work with the Jews of the country throughout the years.

At the meeting Stambler said that despite the holiday, it is time to remember “our brothers and sisters who are held by the terrorist organization Hamas and to praise the heroism of the soldiers on the battlefield in Ukraine and in Gaza.”

The Hanukkah holiday was celebrated in Ukraine again this year by the country’s Jews when 42 thousand special kits for the Hanukkah holiday were distributed by the federation.

This year, each kit was accompanied by an A4-sized poster with the name and details of an Israeli Hostage who is being held by the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza, with a brief explanation of all the Hostages and the entire war under the title “Bring them home” in the Ukrainian language.

Also this year, hundreds of billboards about Hanukkah were posted on the streets of Ukrainian cities inviting the public to celebrate the holiday.

FJCU, together with Chabad emissaries and JNRU, have been actively organizing public menorah lightings and distributing Hanukkah kits throughout Ukrainian cities, underlining the community’s commitment to maintaining traditions and spreading hope.

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