By Faygie Levy Holt(Chabbad.org) For several weeks, Chabad-Lubavitch of Kharkov had been delivering food to an elderly man in their community—one among hundreds who they have been helping directly even as bombs continue to devastate their city. On Monday they arranged for his Jewish burial.
“He died of a heart attack this morning, and we buried him today,” said Miriam Moskovitz, co-director of Chabad of Kharkov, speaking from Israel, where she and her husband, Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, have been doing their utmost to provide for the material and spiritual needs of community members still at home, as well as for its refugees abroad. “It’s a very complicated process in these times.”
The sheer number of people killed in Kharkov, where bombings and artillery attacks continue day and night, means that not everyone is being given the dignity of a private burial, with some people being buried in mass, unmarked graves.
That is what Chabad emissaries are working hard to avoid.
In Judaism, the importance of a proper burial dates back to the beginning of humankind, as G‑d told Adam: “For dust thou are and unto dust shalt thou return.”
“We have had a few people who have passed away,” said Moskovitz, who along with her husband have led the Jewish community in Kharkov since 1990.
“The first few days, when there was extreme bombing we had a very, very difficult time finding somebody able to dig for the burial,” she explained. “We have to find people to literally risk their lives to go to the morgue and arrange the funeral and burial.”
“The bombing in Kharkov has remained nonstop since day one,” she continued, “and a lot of it is in residential areas, so that makes things even more challenging.”
Also, given that so many people have fled Ukraine, it’s sometimes hard to reach the family of the deceased in a timely manner.
“There was another woman from our community who was killed, and it took a long time to get permission from her family to bury her,” said Moskovitz, adding that they then had to arrange to have the woman’s body released to a representative of Chabad for the burial in the Jewish section of the cemetery where she was eventually interned.
“Two days ago, a friend approached me with a request to help an acquaintance whose mother was killed in the bombings in Kharkiv and to help bury her,” Ksenia Sveltova, director of the Israel-Midwest program at the Mitvim Institute, a think tank in Israel, wrote in Hebrew on Twitter, according to a translation. “Volunteers associated with Chabad and Rabbi Moskovitz, (thank you very much for them), were on duty despite the great danger, and today the late Tamara Katpova was brought to rest. She was 78 at the time of her death … .”
As for the man who died on Monday, his body was initially taken to the local synagogue where more than 100 people are staying, and a quorum of men was able to recite Kaddish for the deceased before his burial.
“We aren’t always able to have a minyan,” said Miriam Moskovitz. “Today, we were very lucky.”
The Ukraine Jewish Relief Fund has been established to help provide assistance to the Jewish communities in Ukraine impacted by the war.
Click here for a prayer you can say and a list of good deeds you can do in the merit of the protection of all those in harm’s way.