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March 1, 2022 1:57 pm

Chief Rabbi Rescued From Kyiv: ‘The Feeling in My Heart Remains Difficult’

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avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Servicemen of the Ukrainian National Guard take positions in central Kyiv, Ukraine February 25, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

The chief rabbi of Kyiv and his family were rescued from the embattled city on Tuesday and are now on their way to Budapest as Russian forces close in on the Ukrainian capital.

“I left with mixed feelings and heavy sentiments,” Rabbi Jonathan Markovitch told Israeli news site Walla. “Right now, I don’t know if I did the right thing. I’m having a hard time with the decision.”

He acted based on “what I was told was right for the safety of the community, the family, and myself,” given warnings that “all of us would be in danger.”

“But the feeling in my heart remains difficult,” Markovitch said.

He also addressed the Jewish community of Kyiv, saying, “You are absolutely foremost in my mind. I will continue to take care of you. I will do everything in my power for your security, so you won’t be under pressure and you won’t starve.”

Markovitch and his wife Inna, who have been emissaries of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement for more than two decades after living in Israel, previously turned the Kyiv Jewish Center into a makeshift shelter, stockpiling six tons of food and 50 mattresses for those in need.

The chief rabbi gave a stark picture of Kyiv, describing “a feeling of terrible shortage” in the city, but also expressed hope. On the way out of the country, he recounted, “We saw many Ukrainians who will be ready to do what it takes in order to defend their homeland.”

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