Despite the war that is devastating much of the nation around them, a group of Jews gathered on Monday at the Golden Rose synagogue in Dnipro, Ukraine, to rejoice. A local boy was celebrating his bar mitzvah.

As is customary, the young teen, dressed in a traditional black hat and suit, also recited a special Chassidic maamar (discourse) in Yiddish as his guests listened in and enjoyed fruit and pastries. Among those celebrating was Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki,the chief rabbi of Dnipro and the head Chabad-Lubavitch representative in the region, who has remained in Dnipro to help his community through the war. An estimated 50,000 Jews live in the city and its surrounding areas.

The historic Golden Rose synagogue is located adjacent to Chabad’s Menorah Jewish Cultural Center. The Menorah Center, which opened in 2012, has seven towers and covers 538,000 square feet;it is the largest Jewish center in the world. It includes a hotel, Jewish museum, synagogue, kosher restaurants, kosher market and more.

Dnipro, formerly called Dnepropetrovsk, holds an important place in Jewish history. Between 1908-1939 its chief rabbi was Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, father of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. The Rebbe grew up in the city, then call Yekaterinoslav, and his 1915 bar mitzvah there drew all segments of the local Jewish community, both religious and non-religious Jews. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson filled his post through the dark Soviet era before being arrested by the NKVD—the Stalin-era name of the Soviet Union’s secret police—tortured, and exiled to remote Kazakhstan. He fell sick as a result of his treatment by Soviet authorities and passed away in Almaty in 1944.

In Aug. of 1991, just prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian branch of the KGB—which succeeded the NKVD—formally apologized to the Rebbe for its treatment of his father and handed over his arrest files to Chabad representatives who brought them to the Rebbe.

The Ukraine Jewish Relief Fund has been established to help provide assistance to the Jewish communities in Ukraine impacted by the war.

Click here for a prayer you can say and a list of good deeds you can do in the merit of the protection of all those in harm’s way.

Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezky, center, gave words of inspiration.
Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezky, center, gave words of inspiration.
The ceremony took place the Golden Rose synagogue in Dnipro, Ukraine
The ceremony took place the Golden Rose synagogue in Dnipro, Ukraine