On a recent visit to Southern Ukraine, French Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy toured Chabad-Lubavitch of Odessa’s institutions, including the Mishpacha Children’s Home, directed by Rabbi Avraham and Chaya Wolff. Lévy is visiting Ukraine in preparation for an upcoming documentary about the war’s impact on the country, including its vast Jewish community, and said he was extraordinarily impressed by Chabad’s activities throughout Ukraine, which have continued throughout the ongoing conflict.

“The conversation lasted for many hours,” said Wolff, who was accompanied by Igor Shatkhin, chairman of the Federations of Jewish Communities of Southern Ukraine. “Lévy was exposed to the intense work of the institutions of the Jewish community throughout the difficult war and said he was deeply moved by the dramatic effect of the war on children,” said the rabbi.

The philosopher told the rabbi that he was particularly impressed by Chabad’s efforts on behalf of the 120 children of the Odessa orphanage who made a grueling 52-hour journey across seven countries last year before arriving in Berlin, where they were hosted for months by Chabad of Berlin. The children were escorted by the Wolffs’ son, Rabbi Mendi Wolff, on their journey to Berlin, while his parents remained behind in Odessa, determined to stay with their community during the crisis.

Praising Rabbi Avraham Wolff in a tweet showing himself praying with the rabbi wearing a tallit and tefillin, Lévy likened the rabbi to the students of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement: “[Rabbi Avraham Wolff] prays just like during the time of Baal Shem Tov … [and] studies like the masters of the Talmud did … ,” he wrote.

“I don’t remember the last time I put on tefillin,” Lévy told the rabbi, “but I will do it now to pray for the peace of the Jewish community and Ukraine.”

The next day, Lévy traveled to Dnipro, where he shared a photo of his being called to the Torah in tallit and tefillin during the Monday morning Shacharit services.

Lévy is called to the Torah at Monday morning services in Dnipro. - Photo: Bernard-Henri Lévy/Twitter
Lévy is called to the Torah at Monday morning services in Dnipro.
Photo: Bernard-Henri Lévy/Twitter