NEW YORK (VINnews) — Ukrainian Jewish communities celebrated Rosh Hashana in a tense atmosphere, with many of them under fire from Russian weapons. Despite this, numerous people came to the shuls and attended the prayers, even in cities adjacent to the front line.
Rabbi Nochum Ehrentrau, the rabbi of Zaporizhzhia, a city situated on the front line, said that “There were bombings every night but Thank G-d there were no casualties. Despite the fears and the situation, 350 Jews came to hear shofar blowing. I didn’t believe my eyes, its an incredible number and we can clearly feel how the communal unity and the fact that we are here has given a sense of security to all the members of the kehilla, who had great inspiration during the course of the festival.”
In Nikolayev, a city were streets are nearly empty due to the precarious security situation, the festial passed peacefully. Local Chabad emissary Rabbi Shalom Gottlieb said that the turnout was “beyond expectations” since “the city is embedded in battle and suffering bombings and streets are empty. People stay barricaded in their homes and don’t venture out. Despite this, 200 people of all ages came to the Rosh Hashana prayers and heard shofar. We couldn’t have dreamed of this.
“People’s excitement was palpable and it’s hard to describe it in words. Jews just ‘held on’ to one another and rubbed their eyes with wonder that our city Nikolayev merited celebrating the new year despite the shelling and bombs we experience daily.”
An especially moving moment occurred during the course of the festival when a Jewish soldier arrived straight from the front line to hear shofar blowing. “The soldier was honored with opening the Aron Kodesh as we said Avinu Malkeinu,” Rabbi Gottlieb said. “There was not a dry eye there as we saw a soldier in uniform standing in awe and opening the Aron Kodesh. Everyone sang Avinu Malkeinu in heartrending unison, which reflected the difficult situation the Jews and other residents find themselves in.”
Rabbi Gottlieb added that “during the Tekios, the shofar’s blasts overcame the sound of sirens which frequently pierce the air in our city.”
Other towns also reported large numbers of worshipers. The communities also organized public meals for the Jewish worshipers and these were also reportedly well attended. Tens of communal rabbis and Chabad emissaries arranged for the communal meals with the help of the Vaad Hatzalah of Chabad in Ukraine.