Rabbi Markovitch and Alexander Kunitsky
Rabbi Markovitch and Alexander Kunitsky Evgenia Vodolazskaya

Yonatan Markovitch, the Chief rabbi of Kiev, was officially awarded Monday the Medal and a Certificate of honor of the nation’s parliament – the Verkhona Rada of Ukraine.

It is the first time in the country’s history that a Jewish religious leader has been honored with the highest award of the Ukrainian Parliament. This award is given out every year to the outstanding individuals in the world of science, culture, and art, as well as to the public leaders who made an important contribution to Ukrainian public and the state. The rabbi was distinguished with this award for his many years of dedicated work for the common good of all the people in the country and for the sake of the Jewish community. The initiative to give the award to the rabbi belongs to Alexander Kunitsky, chairman the “Israel – Ukraine” parliamentary committee and People’s Deputy of Ukraine, and Dmytro Razumkov, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada.

The award ceremony, which was scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic, was attended by prominent leaders of the local Jewish community, as well as by the people’s deputies Alexander Kunitskiy, Alina Zagoruiko, Vadim Strunevich, and Larisa Bilozir. Video postcards arrived from Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Itzhak Yosef, Israel’s interior minister Aryeh Deri, Israel’s minister of religious affairs Yaakov Avitan, and Jerusalem mayor Moshe Leon.

At the ceremony, the parliamentarians stressed the special contribution made by the Jewish community led by Rabbi Markovitch to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and spoke of the rabbi’s assistance to the Jewish pilgrims to Uman. In recent months, members of the Kiev Jewish community have launched a major assistance campaign aimed at the senior citizens. As part of this ongoing project, the underserved seniors have received thousands of food assistance packages. Major educational work aimed at raising the public awareness of the issues and unique challenges faced by the elderly is currently underway. Thus, the campaign has called on younger family members to be in touch with their grandparents, especially now that the latter are more vulnerable than ever to loneliness.

Yonatan Markovitch, the chief rabbi of the Ukrainian capital and chief Chabad emissary in Kiev, gained prominence also due to his service to the local community and the Jews from around the world who travel to Uman every year. A similar incident happened just recently, when hundreds of Breslev Hasidim that arrived in Ukraine of the eve of Shabbat got stranded in airports across the country because of new restrictions on international travel into the country. Rabbi Markovitch, nevertheless, was able to convince Ukraine’s Minister of Interior to make an exception for the international visitors this time.

The medal of honor of the Parliament is not the only award rabbi Yonatan Markovitch has received. About two weeks ago, on Ukraine’s Independence Day, the country’s president Vladimir Zelensky signed a decree to decorate the rabbi with the nation’s highest award – Order of Merit.

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