Despite Purim falling out on March 16th – the date of the controversial referendum in Crimea – the Jews in Kharkov came to celebrate the Festival of Victory of Light over Darkness –Purim- in the Kharkov Circus. After weeks of turbulence and demonstrations in Kharkov, the tension reached its peak on Sunday as Ukraine anxiously awaited the effects of the referendum.
But they came. Not in the tens and hundreds …but two thousand proud Jews who wanted to put aside their fears and worries and to join in pride and celebrate. And celebrate they did!
With the acrobats, monkeys and bears performing to Jewish songs, the Megilla (Purim story) being read in Hawaiian style and every participant receiving Mishloach Manot(traditional Purim gift of food) – the power of the Jewish spirit despite all odds was clear to all.
The head of religion in the State of Kharkov, was moved to tears as she addressed the euphoric crowd “We have to learn from the power of strength of the Jewish people to stand together even in hard times”
Rabbi Moishe Moskovitz, Chief Rabbi of Kharkov said a prayer for safety and peace in Kharkov and the whole Ukraine. He encouraged the community that the best way to help the instability in the country is by adding light – good deeds and caring for each other. Visibly impressed at the large turnout, the Rabbi said that “your being here today, is a sign that the Jewish people is alive and well and our heritage will keep us going no matter where we are and no matter what is happening around us.”
Hundreds of men and boys put on Tefillin at the entrance- many for the first time ever- and over 1000 Shabbat candles were given out to women and girls. The Or Avner Chabad day school and kindergarten made a Purim spiel with song and dance. Alexander Kaganovsky, the president of the synagogue, wished everyone that the spirit of Purim should continue throughout the year. Rabbi Levi Raices, in the Kharkov tradition came out with an original Hawaiian costume together with the ‘support’ of the Yeshiva Ktana ‘palm trees’. Cantor Yitzchak Halfon, together with his sons performed an original Purim song. The circus performance was on water and spectacular fountains and a water show kept the crowd amazed.
This Purim will definitely be one to remember!