Ukrainian Jew Rescued From Non-Jewish Burial by United Hatzalah

By Hamodia Staff

(Photos courtesy of United Hatzalah) 

Last week, an elderly Jewish man with no living Jewish relatives passed away in Ukraine in the town of Bila Tserkva and a Christian burial ceremony was planned. A local rabbi who was aware of what was transpiring notified United Hatzalah volunteer Naftali Rabinovich, a member of the Uman branch of the organization. 

Rabinovich was in Bila Tserkva together with United Hatzalah CEO Eli Pollak, VP of Operations Dov Maisel, and additional volunteers part of a special mission sent by the organization to distribute generators to schools, orphanages, and medical clinics throughout the city, as a response to the severe shortage of electricity caused by the war and extreme winter conditions. 

Putting the distribution temporarily on hold, members of the delegation rushed to the cemetery where the deceased was moments away from being buried in accordance with the Christian ritual. After obtaining permission from the authorities, they immediately removed the Christian symbols from the casket and covered his body with a tallis, before carrying out a Jewish funeral.

Team members recited Tehillim, and said Kaddish and the Keil Maleh Rachamim prayer for the deceased. He was then laid to rest, as the volunteers carried the deceased to his final resting place, lowered the wooden coffin into the grave, and then covered the grave with dirt as per Jewish custom. 

Vice President of Operations for the organization Dov Maisel added, “United Hatzalah prides itself on offering help to everyone, Jewish or non-Jewish. In this instance, we paused our deliveries of generators for a short time so that we could help a man receive a proper burial according to his faith. It was an emergency call to provide the proper burial for someone in need. While most of our emergencies are usually focused on saving lives, we help wherever and whenever we can.” 

“This was a very humbling and moving experience for me,” said CEO of United Hatzalah Eli Pollack. “We managed to scrape together a minyan and recite Kaddish for one of our fellow Jews who was about to have a non-Jewish funeral. I am happy to have merited to participate in this act of kindness upon kindness.”

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