Ukrainian Government Awards Chabad Rabbi


by S. Olidort - DONETSK, UKRAINE

November 5, 2002

Once a capital crime in this region, Jewish outreach and spiritual leadership were recently awarded the highest government recognition.

Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski, Chabad representative to the Donbass region of the Ukraine, realized history was being made when he received news of his award from the representative of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, several weeks ago. “Government awards are very sought after here,” said Rabbi Vishedski, “even high officials work hard, pulling strings, all with the hope of receiving this prestigious decoration.” The medal is awarded annually to recognize outstanding achievements in various fields including business, law, and community leadership, and while Jewish professionals have have earned the medal, it was never in recognition of anything Jewishly-related.

Presenting Rabbi Rabbi Vishedski with the medal at the Academy’s building in the capital city of Kiev, Professor Dmitri Akimov, chairman of the Awards committee, said, “the Government of Ukraine is proud to grant the Gold Medal to one of the most important rabbis in the Ukraine, and one of the main leaders of the Jewish community in the country—for his contribution to good relationships, mutual understanding and dialogue between different nations, and for his major contribution to the renewal of Jewish life in the Donbass region in the realms of education, culture and welfare.”

When the Vishedskis settled here back in 1994 they found a Jewish population of 35,000 Jews but no Jewish infrastructure in place. Since then, Chabad has established a vast network of Jewish educational facilities, including a kindergarten, elementary and high school, and post high school educational insititutions. Once inaccessible, kosher food is now readily available here, and a soup kitchen feeds 500 people daily. And next door the Chabad shul--a hub of Jewish activity--a new Jewish Community Center is under construction, to be completed by next September.

Accepting the award, Rabbi Vishedski expressed his appreciation and thanks to the Ukrainian government for a democracy that grants full equal rights to all national minorities in the country. Rabbi Vishedski went on to say that he was accepting the award as representative of the entire Chabad-Lubavitch movement to the Donbass region of Ukraine, and as an emmissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe, he noted, was born and educated in Ukraine, and “it is thanks to his great vision, his prayers and his advice, that we have been able to bring about the renewal of Jewish life in Ukraine and in the entire CIS.”

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