Rabbi Goldschmidt speaking to children at a synagogue
Rabbi Goldschmidt speaking to children at a synagogue Snegovic

Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), left Jerusalem this week for Europe, primarily in order to coordinate the work of the CER Aid for Ukrainian refugees in both Moldova and Romania.

Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt spent Wednesday and Thursday (10th-11th August) in Chișinău (formerly known as Kishinev), the capital and largest city of Moldova. Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, over 35,000 Ukrainian Jewish refugees fled Ukraine through Moldova, via its southwestern border.

In Chișinău, Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt met with Rabbi Pinchas Saltzman, the Rabbi of Agudath Israel community and member of the CER. Together they discussed community affairs and wider religious questions. Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt also prayed and studied with the community, delivering a talk at the Agudath Israel Community Centre.

Earlier this year, as Ukrainian Jewish refugees were pouring into Moldova, Rabbi Saltzman spent months supporting Ukrainian refugees, providing them with shelter, childcare, clothes to wear, and simple medicines - the very basics that they lacked. His work was honored by the CER in their Munich Conference this May. Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt also held a roundtable discussion with Ion Ceban, General Mayor of the Municipality of Chișinău, regarding how to further help to those Ukrainian Jewish refugees who have made their home in the city.

Chișinău, which in the days of the Russian Empire was called Kishinev, is seared into Jewish memory for its infamous pogrom in 1903. The city has a rich yet dark Jewish history. At the end of the nineteenth century, around 46% of the population of Chișinău was Jewish, numbering over 50,000 people. Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt paid his respects at the Monument to the Victims of Jewish Ghetto.

In order to engage the wider Jewish public with the city’s significant Jewish past, Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt met with Sergiu Prodan, the Moldovan Minister of Culture. They discussed the Jewish sites of memory and envisioned creating an infrastructure for Jewish heritage tourism, including a kosher restaurant, which Chișinău (Kishinev) does not yet have.

Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt remarked, “It has been a remarkable few days, being able to support our communities and the Ukrainian Jewish refugees in Moldova. For me, this trip has also been an intertwinement of both past, present, and future. I confronted the tragic Jewish history of the city, have heard from Rabbi Saltzman about the situation today, and his rabbinic leadership has been exemplary, and I have delivered lectures to the children in the synagogue and spoke to city officials and politicians about what can be built for the Jewish population in the city, gazing into the future and potential of this community.”

Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt meeting Sergiu Prodan, the Moldovan Minister of Culture
Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt meeting Sergiu Prodan, the Moldovan Minister of Culture Snegovic