KIEV (JNS) – The Ukrainian parliament has awarded Rabbi Jonathan Markowitz, chief rabbi of the Ukrainian city of Kiev, a medal of honor for his 20 years of service in the city, as well as his contribution to the welfare of Ukrainian citizens.
Head of the Ukrainian parliament’s Israel-Ukrainian Parliamentary Friendship Committee, Alexander Kunitsky, helped advocate for the honor bestowed on Markowitz, who is also expected to receive the Ukraine’s highest civilian honor, the President’s Medal.
Markowitz’s son, Ariel, said that his father is “the only rabbi in the history of the Ukraine to be awarded to President’s Medal, and only the fourth religious figure in history to be so honored.
“My father’s grandfather was a rabbi in the Ukraine at a time when he had to hide his activity, and now my father is receiving a citation signed by the president. It’s amazing,” Ariel Markowitz said.
For the past 20 years, Markowitz Sr. has served as the Chabad emissary in Kiev as well as the city’s chief rabbi. He has been at the forefront of extensive social and educational activity, which only increased after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We published the phone numbers of [Jewish] community [resources] and helped every citizen who reached out, without asking if they were Jewish,” Ariel Markowitz said.
Currently, Markowitz has been working to find a solution to the crisis caused by the ban against Hassidic Jews flying to the Ukraine to mark the High Holidays at the burial site of Rabbi Nachman of Uman—to prevent the spread of COVID-19—an issue that has become a flashpoint in Israel and the Jewish world.
“My father helped get the Hassidim held in the Ukraine released,” Ariel Markowitz said. “He was in contact with [Israeli] Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, and also spoke to whoever he needed to in order to have them allowed in. He tries to do good wherever he can.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Borysovych Avakov announced on Monday that his government will allow some 3,000 Hassidic Jews to make the annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.