The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.
Переклад цього матеріалу українською мовою з російської було автоматично здійснено сервісом Google Translate, без подальшого редагування тексту.
Bu məqalə Google Translate servisi vasitəsi ilə avtomatik olaraq rus dilindən azərbaycan dilinə tərcümə olunmuşdur. Bundan sonra mətn redaktə edilməmişdir.

Chief Rabbi of Ukraine: 'I was born in Leningrad and never thought that I would have to come under fire from Russian tanks and artillery'

The Brodsky synagogue is located in the very center of the Ukrainian capital, just a few kilometers from the symbolic Kyiv square of Independence Square. Founded in 1898, “it was closed by the communists in 1926, returned to the Jewish community in 1997, and in 2000 we were able to restore and reopen it,” explains Chief Rabbi of Ukraine Moshe Reuven Azman.

Chief Rabbi of Ukraine Moshe Reuven Azman. Author's photo

The synagogue building has retained its important ritual purpose, but today it serves as a distribution center for humanitarian aid for all who need it. Right in the foyer of the synagogue, you can see several boxes with air conditioners, which will soon be sent to various hospitals and hospitals in Ukraine. And the girl sitting at the entrance registers all the people who ask for help. She puts them on a list so that she can supply them with everything they need later.

Many donations come to the synagogue from Israel.

“Help for everyone who needs it, regardless of whether they are Jews or not: we brought first-aid kits from Israel and distributed them. It saved lives. Now we are helping with medicine,” emphasizes the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine.

According to the European Jewish Congress, the Jewish community in Ukraine before the Russian invasion numbered more than 360 people. Many of them left the country at the beginning of the war, and it is now difficult to determine the exact number that remained in Ukraine. Kyiv has the largest concentration of Jews in the country, followed by Dnipro, Kharkiv and Odessa.

Moshe Reuven Azman came to Kyiv in 1995 after studying in Israel. When the Russian invasion began on February 24, it was out of the question for him to move abroad. On the contrary, he publicly called on the Russian people and the Jews of Russia to oppose the invasion of Ukraine: “It was the cry of the soul. I was in Anatevka, not far from Stoyanka, Bucha, Irpen - places now known throughout the world. I was there with all my family and hundreds of refugees. When the children were evacuated, I felt better.”

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The Chief Rabbi of Kyiv recalls what the first stages of the war were like when Russian troops were a few kilometers from the capital of Ukraine: “It was the first two weeks of the war, and we were shelled from all sides. I was born in Leningrad, in the Soviet Union, I never thought that I would have to be under fire from Russian tanks and artillery.

Moshe Reuven Azman combines his work as the chief rabbi of Kyiv with the search for various types of assistance for all those affected by the Russian invasion.

– How are relations between the Russian and Ukrainian Jewish communities developing now?

Relationships are almost non-existent. I do not blame the Jewish community of Russia, I even feel sorry for them, they have become a kind of hostage. The situation in Russia is complicated, if someone says that he is against the war, he can be imprisoned for 15 years, and people are afraid. Rabbis from Russia called me, I won’t say who, but they understood the situation.

I am a person who is not afraid to speak my mind. I was born in the Soviet Union and at that time I was interrogated by the KGB many times, although they failed to frighten me even then.

– The invasion of Ukraine has greatly changed the lives of all Ukrainians. How has this war affected your life?

My life has completely changed. In wartime, people are constantly in danger: someone is under artillery fire, someone is fighting on the front lines, someone in other parts of Ukraine - far from the front line - no one knows where a rocket might fall. In addition, all Ukrainians who had to leave the country also face difficulties. My family members are now refugees, although they have a place to live and are not in danger, morally they still feel like refugees. My wife, who was responsible for the development of various educational projects before the war, is now forced to leave them.

Millions of people have nowhere to live, many are simply in danger. But still, I would call it "finest hour". Because the war awakened extraordinary qualities in the Ukrainian people: it gave us volunteers who do not sleep at all and work tirelessly; thousands of soldiers who go to the front to defend their homeland at the risk of their lives. Many people share what they have… Good deeds are seen all the time. Those good qualities that were dormant in peacetime are now awakened.

I think that in a certain sense Ukraine has already won, I only hope with the least possible losses. And as the moral winners of this war, we cannot return to the old state of depravity. I say it openly. Each person must change society, but first of all people must change themselves. And then the Almighty will see it - everyone will be fine. Society will change after the war and will be completely different.

I think that Russia should repent, the Russians should repent of these crimes, just as the Germans repented after World War II. They are still ashamed of what their SS grandparents did during the Holocaust. If Russia sees itself as the successor to the Soviet Union, it should regret invading Ukraine.

Chief Rabbi of Ukraine Moshe Reuven Azman and the team of the Caras de la Guerra project: Oleg Cheslavsky, Miriam Gonzalez Francisco, Irina Klochko.

– How do you assess what Russian President Vladimir Putin said during the speech in which he declared war on Ukraine?

Russia says that it has come here to “denazify” Ukraine, that is, to eradicate Nazism in Ukraine. Well, if you think a little, turn your mind on a little, you will understand a few things. First, they attack peaceful, predominantly Russian-speaking cities such as Kharkov, Mariupol and others. How many Russians were killed there? They say they came to “save the Russians”, but those they attack do not want to be under the rule of Moscow, and for this the Russians shell their houses in densely populated areas ... Absolutely no logic.

Secondly, what kind of Nazis are here? If the President is Jewish, then what kind of Nazis can elect a Jewish President? Recently, the prime minister was a Jew - Volodymyr Groysman. Rabinovich was the leader of the opposition, he is also a Jew. There are no Nazi parties, the nationalist parties did not get into parliament, they did not pass the electoral threshold. At the same time, in Russia, if you look on the Internet, you will find that there are as many as 53 fascist organizations.

This war is not only against Ukraine, it is against the entire civilized world. They started a war to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO: now Finland and Sweden will be in NATO...

I think the Russians helped Ukraine a lot. Not on purpose, but they helped Ukraine unite. All Ukraine began to help each other. There has never been such a scale.

I live here, I am a Jew, and no one oppresses me. I am a Russian-speaking rabbi born in Russia. Unfortunately, I have not yet learned the Ukrainian language, but I want to learn it. In Ukraine, no one persecutes me for the language I speak, there are no sanctions, nothing.

What the Russians did in Bucha and Irpen has become a symbol. I didn't read about it in the paper, when it happened there, we were not far away. Russians are not anti-fascists, they behave like fascists, they kill civilians, rob, rape...

– Patriarch Kirill supported the Russian government in the invasion of Ukraine. What is your opinion on this matter?

It's not quite right to ask me what I think about it. I am not from the Christian religion. You should probably ask Christian leaders about this. If it were rabbis, yes, I would be ready to speak.

– How has the position of the Jewish community changed from the moment Ukraine gained independence to the present day?

Today there is no state anti-Semitism in Ukraine, modern anti-Semitism in the country is at a very low level, less than in Europe, I think. When the Soviet Union collapsed, successive Ukrainian governments returned dozens of synagogues, and many Jewish schools and other institutions were built.

Today this synagogue [Brodsky's Synagogue] is a symbol of the revival of Jewish life in Ukraine: it was the central synagogue. It is located in the center of Kyiv. Kyiv is the center of Ukraine, and Ukraine is now the center of Europe. So I say to my parishioners: “People, when we pray on Saturday, we have such a big responsibility, can you imagine? We pray in the synagogue in the center of Kyiv, which is now the center not only of Ukraine, but also of Europe and even the world.”

That's why we try to do good and not just pray. Every day we receive and distribute a large amount of humanitarian aid. We managed to evacuate tens of thousands of people from hot spots. We save many people.

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You may have heard that I install air conditioners in hospitals. When I saw that our hospitals did not have these devices, I decided to purchase them. I was in the hospital at a temperature of 35 degrees, and this is not good for the poor wounded soldiers who come from the front. This is not only uncomfortable, but the wounds do not heal well. I decided to raise money, and now we buy air conditioners for hospitals every day.

We do not receive funds just to manage them ourselves. If we see that there are volunteers from Kharkov or other places who need help, we try to support them when we see that they are doing a really good job.

It's not that we have a lot of money, but we're trying to get funding. There are still many problems here, and therefore it is great that Europe is helping and that the whole world is in solidarity with Ukraine. However, we still need help, because Ukraine is fighting not for itself, but for the entire civilized world, and with God's help, it will win.

- When the war ends, will there be space for relations between the peoples of Russia and Ukraine?

I think that in the near future, when the truth is shown on Russian television, the announcer will say: "Sorry, we lied to you, we deceived you ... That's it, now let's repent." Forgiveness is a very important issue, and Ukrainians themselves will decide how they are going to forgive. And it's not just the religious leaders. The Jews spent decades to forgive Germany... You cannot tell your heart how and when to forgive. We'll talk about it as soon as the war is over.

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