‘Praying for hostages’: 100 Jewish refugees from Ukraine hold special seder in Poland

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‘Praying for hostages’: 100 Jewish refugees from Ukraine hold special seder in Poland

'Our strength is in our unity. I am happy to see everyone here celebrating Passover and praying for the freedom of the Jewish people,' said Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland

Photo credit to: The Jewish Agency for Israel.
Photo credit to: The Jewish Agency for Israel.

More than 100 Jewish refugees from Ukraine have celebrated a special seder in Poland , praying for the 133 hostages still held in Gaza. 

The seder, hosted by The Jewish Agency for Israel, had a table with empty chairs and pictures of the hostages, with the participants calling on the release of hostages.

“This year, we celebrate Passover differently, praying for the return of the hostages that remain in captivity,” said Yael Branovsky, head of The Jewish Agency office in Poland.

Yeugenia and Boris Fogel, an elderly couple who fled Ukraine a few days after the war began in February 2022, said their family members in both Ukraine and Israel have been affected by the ongoing wars.

“We have family and friends in Israel and Ukraine. We have friends and family living in cities being bombed in Ukraine, and we have cousins who recently returned from reserve duty in Gaza. From morning until night, we follow the news in Israel and Ukraine with concern; this reality is very tough, and we hope that both wars will end quickly,” said Yeugenia.

“We are from Zaporizhia; just a few days ago, our house was bombed again. We are very worried – constantly on the phone with our relatives and friends both in Israel and Ukraine; it’s an unbearable reality,” she added.

The couple, like many other Jewish refugees from Ukraine, are considering making Aliyah.

Photo credit to: The Jewish Agency for Israel.

“The Jewish tradition has always been present in our lives. This evening, when we read the Haggadah together, sang, and talked with members of the community who are in a similar situation, it made us feel the warmth in our hearts. For a few hours, it felt like life was normal, and we celebrated Passover as we usually do,” the Fogel’s added.

Branovsky stressed the importance of Jewish life in the Diaspora and the connection to Israel in times like these, saying: “It is uplifting to see such a large number of Jews who fled the war in Ukraine maintaining the Jewish tradition and connecting to Israel through the extensive activities of The Jewish Agency.”

Dr. Yaakov Livneh, Israel’s ambassador to Poland, also attended the event, saying: “We all think of the captives in Gaza and hope for their return. However, Israel is a strong country, both in spirit and in action, and knows how to defend itself. Israel is a centre for Jewish life and existence in the world, and there is a place in it for every Jew who wants to make it their home. A strong and connected Diaspora is also very important, and I want to thank The Jewish Agency for its incredible activity.”

Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, also attended the seder and added, “Our strength is in our unity. I am happy to see everyone here celebrating Passover and praying for the freedom of the Jewish people.”

More than 15,000 Ukrainian Jews immigrated to Israel during the first year of the war, with the help of the Jewish Agency.

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