By Ilana Siyance
The past few weeks, since the Taliban forces took over Kabul, an unlikely savior has risen to rescue refugees stranded in Afghanistan.
As reported by the NY Post, Rabbi Moshe Margaretten and his non-profit Tzedek Association have embarked on multiple rescue missions of dozens of Afghan refugees. “We are not stopping,” said Rabbi Margaretten. “What we are doing now is trying to focus on high risk. Who is at the most risk?” The mild-mannered Rabbi, who resides in Williamsburg, has been working to rescue an Afghan prosecutor with her family, as well as members of the Afghan women’s soccer team.
“Thank you @Tzedek_Assoc /https://tzedekassociation.org/for your incredible help w/ this life-saving rescue effort, including coordination to the airport and other routes, and political connections. Together we are saving lives!” Khalida Popal, a former captain of Afghanistan’s women’s national team, said in a tweet last week.
With the Biden administration’s embarrassing retreat, Margaretten has stepped up, working closely with some of the most powerful people in Washington to help refugees escape. The 40-year-old Orthodox Rabbi first got involved in the matter, when activists asked for his help to raise funds to evacuate Zebulon Simantov, the last Jew living in Afghanistan. Just hours later, Margaretten says he raised $80,000 from his donor networks, and proceeded to hire Moti Kahana, an Israeli-American contractor who would do the job. Of course, Simantov spoiled that plot when he insisted on staying in the war-torn country. Kahana and the rabbi decided to instead use the funds they had raised to help other vulnerable Afghan Muslims.
“We are doing more judges, prosecutors, mostly women and children are the main focus and people who have helped the US government. Also US citizens if there are any,” Kahana said. “I am basically just an Uber dispatcher in Kabul.” Kahana, 53, is now getting financing from several nonprofits, and says he is moving out dozens of people each night, though he would not share the details of the missions.
Rabbi Margaretten said that the issue touches his heart as a Jew. “My grandparents from all sides are Holocaust survivors. They all escaped the Nazis,” Margaretten said. “We all went through the kind of pain these people are going through and we have to do whatever we can.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office confirmed with the Post that they had coordinated with Rabbi Margaretten to help evacuate the soccer team as well as other vulnerable Afghanis.