Monsey Resident Creates Simchas Yom Tov for Ukrainian Jewish Refugees in Moldova
By Sarah Morgenstern
Singing, dancing, mishlaoch manos, and a Purim seuda in Chisinău, Moldova: where thousands of Ukrainian Jews have sought shelter from their war-torn country?
Monsey-based Rabbi Yaakov Flitchkin, a worldwide activist, flew to Chisinău last week to help Moldovan Chief Rabbi Pinchas Zalsman make simchas Yom Tov for Ukrainian refugees who have been forced from their homes after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Feb. 24 unprovoked invasion of their country.
One Crimean elder zayde, who survived the Holocaust as a child and then had to flee to Kiev in March 2014, when Putin invaded and took control of Crimea, sadly told Flitchkin he was shocked to have to flee from war for the third time.
“It is really emotional to see all these people losing everything and running with one suitcase: mothers, children, and men who lived in Ukraine, but who are from other countries,” said Flitchkin who has been facilitating relief collaborations between Jewish organizations and members of the United Nations.
Ukrainian men ages 18 to 60 years-of-age were required to stay in the country to fight the attacking Russians.
Although Rabbi Zalsman has been busy renting hotels and doing everything and anything for the thousands of Ukrainian Jews streaming into his country, as 13 Adar approached, he wanted to ensure that the thousands of Jewish refugees and local Jews heard krias Megillas Esther, enjoyed a lebadig party, gave and received mishlaoch manos, and ate a beautiful seuda.
Instead of renting a tent outside his shul Agudat Yisroel, this year, Rabbi Zalsman rented to a large hall.
“Erev Purim: the vendors started to arrive: delivering food and decorating the hall with colorful balloons, toys and dolls,” said Flitchkin. “When the children walked in: I saw them light up and forget about everything.
“For the adults: we had speeches, music, and a five-star fleishig meal of holopshes, fish, meat, and wine.
“People were dancing. It was Purim, and everybody briefly forgot about the war.”
The next morning, Rabbi Zalsman hosted a smaller event in his shul, where people spoke and danced.
Right after krias megillah, hundreds of Jews were bused to the Chisinău International Airport to fly to Israel.
“When they entered the flight, they were going home, and they were going to safety,” Flitchkin said.