Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky celebrated the start of Chanukah this evening in the presidential palace in the capital city of Kyiv. Taking the wax shammash helper candle in his hands, Zelensky, who is Jewish, himself kindled the first lamp on the silver olive oil menorah.

The president was joined by Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis representing Jewish communities large and small throughout Ukraine, including Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki, rabbi of Dnipro; Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, rabbi of Kharkiv; Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, rabbi of Zhitomir; Rabbi Avraham Wolff, rabbi of Odessa; Rabbi Yechiel Levitansky, rabbi of Sumy; Rabbi Mendel Wilhelm, rabbi of Uzhgorod; Rabbi Mordechai Edri, rabbi of Kryvy Rih; and Rabbi Rabbi Yonatan Markovitz of Kyiv. Also joining them was Rabbi Moshe Asman of Kyiv and Rabbi Mordechai Bald of Lviv.

“Everywhere in the world you have the Chanukiah, and we thank G‑d for the miracles that he does for us,” said Rabbi Mayer Stambler, chairman of the Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine, who coordinated the event together with Rabbi Rafael Rutman. “This is exactly the right time to thank G‑d.”

“A big thanks to all of you, and warm wishes on this holiday of light, Chanukah,” Zelensky said in Ukrainian. “This holiday, I believe, is about victory—the victory and strength of the spirit. I wish you, and all of us, the blessing of light, which is always on the side of those who choose life.”

Throughout war-torn Ukraine, Chabad’s network of hundreds of emissaries and volunteers are working to ensure that beleaguered residents are able to celebrate the Festival of Lights. More than 40,000 Chanukah kits filled with holiday supplies and special treats are being distributed to Jews in every city and village throughout Ukraine thanks to the work of the JRNU (Jewish Relief Network Ukraine), Chabad’s boots on the ground aid network in Ukraine. The kits include a menorah, candles, dreidels, a Chanukah book for children, and chocolate gelt.

The rabbis who joined Zelensky are among the 180 Chabad emissaries in Ukraine. - Photo: FJCU
The rabbis who joined Zelensky are among the 180 Chabad emissaries in Ukraine.
Photo: FJCU