Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Ashalim Power station

The Torah states, "And on that day the Almighty saved the Israelites from the hand of Egypt" (Exodus 14:30). Which day does the Torah refer to when it writes "on that day" and what lesson can we learn from the reference to that day?

The Ohr HaChayim comments that the Torah states that "on that day" that the Israelites were saved was the self-same day that the Egyptians who pursued them perished in the sea. However, the Israelites were liberated from Egypt and left Egypt before this. Why only now that the Egyptians drowned in the sea did they feel saved?

The answer: the Israelites only felt saved once they felt secure that the Egyptians would no longer pursue them. We see from this that even though in actuality a person is free, he is not really considered free unless he personally feels free. A person who worries and feels insecure is a person who is imprisoned even though he is not behind bars and no one will harm him.

To be truly free you must feel free and this is up to you. You have a great deal of control over your thoughts if you work on it. If you worry about the future, even though future events might work out exactly as you would have wished, you still suffer in the present. This suffering will be the same as if you actually experienced some misfortune. However, all the suffering will be unnecessary. The greater your mastery over your thoughts, the greater freedom you will experience in life!

Love Yehuda Lave
    1. Ashalim Power Station

      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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      Ashalim power station
      Elektrowania słoneczna Aszalim.jpg
      Country Israel
      Location Negev Desert
      Coordinates 30.96502°N 34.72602°E Coordinates: 30.96502°N 34.72602°E
      Construction began 2014
      Commission date 2018
      Construction cost US$570 million
      Owner(s) Megalim Solar Power
      Operator(s) Alstom
      Solar farm
      Type CPS
      CSP technology Solar power tower
      Site area 3.15 km2 (1.22 sq mi)
      Power generation
      Nameplate capacity 259 MW
      External links
      Commons Related media on Commons

      The Ashalim power station is a solar power station in the Negev desert near the kibbutz of Ashalim, (south of the district city of Be'er Sheva) in Israel. It has the tallest solar power tower in the world at a height of 260 meters including the boiler, concentrating 50,600 computer-controlled heliostats.

      The station will provide 259  Megawatt of electricity, while the solar tower will provide 121   Megawatt (and 320 GWh) per year. [1] [2] [3] [4]

      The station will combine 3 kinds of energy: solar thermal energy, photovoltaic energy, and natural gas. A 30MW PV plant is planned, and as well as a 121 MW CSP plant, by Megalim Solar Power, a joint venture between Brightsource and Alstom. A second CSP plant will also be built. [5] The station is expected to commence electricity production in 2019.

      Ashalim's solar tower will be the tallest in the world, at 260 meters (850 ft) including the boiler. [6]

      Reasons for building the power station

      winter 2018

      According to a press release of the National Infrastructure Minister of Israel, the establishment has several motivations:

      1. Economic motivation: Reducing imports thus balancing the trade and releasing foreign currency.
      2. Political motivation: Reducing strategic dependence on foreign energy sources.
      3. Environmental motivation: Reducing contamination levels.
      4. Scientific motivation: pushing forward local technology and science, adapting new technologies from abroad.

      See also


    2. "In Israeli desert, world's highest solar tower looks to future". Times of Israel. 19 Jun 2016.
    3. "Israel to hold tender for solar energy plants". 10 Feb 2008.
    4. Ministry of Energy and Water Resources: Electricity Generation
    5. Ashalim Power Station, Israel
    6. BrightSource and Alstom win tender for 121 Megawatt solar thermal power plant in Israel
Scharf, Isaac (January 5, 2017). "Israel harnessing sunshine with world's tallest solar tower". The Times

Have you ever heard of the Ashalim Solar Power Plant?
Well, that makes two of us!
Until a few weeks ago.
We were driving in the Negev. Suddenly, across the expanse of sandy hills, I saw an intense light which seemed to hover over the desert. I estimated it was about twenty miles away, and it was glowing like the sun. We drove north on Route 40, and then west on Route 211. We rounded a hill and there it was!
But what was it?
It was a huge tower in the middle of the desert (820 feet tall, to be exact. For reference, the Empire State Building is 1454 feet.). But that's just the beginning: on the desert floor are a half-million computer-controlled mirrors which reflect the sun's rays toward the top of the tower. The heat from this concentrated light boils water, which turns turbines and creates a huge amount of electricity.
Okay, you know that I do not get excited about technology, so what got my insides jumping when I saw that light?
My friends, we have just completed Zman Chairusainu, the Season of our Freedom (Passover). We are marching to Mount Sinai . Soon, with G-d's help , we are going to see a great light which will be visible around the world. "Hashem came from Sinai, having shone forth to them from Seir, having appeared from Har Paran, and then approached with some of the holy myriads. From His right hand He presented the fiery Torah to them." (Deuteronomy 33:2)
I saw a great light shining across the desert. I felt as if I were seeing a physical manifestation of what the Children of Israel can do if we focus the light of Torah upon our hearts. We can light up the entire world .
How could it be that the Shechina (the Presence of G-d) never left the Temple Mount, yet we pray every day that Hashem should "restore His Shechina to Tzion?"
The Shechina is there, my friends, but the world does not perceive it. "Rebbe Acha said: The Shechina will never depart from the Western Wall, as it is written, (Shir Hashirim 2:9) 'Behold ― He stands behind our wall'" (Midrash Rabba, Shemos 2:2).
While we are in Exile , the Shechina is shrouded; but we are about to emerge from darkness. Soon the Shechina will be tangible throughout world just as that tower of light is visible across the Negev. Then the nations will tremble before Hashem and His Nation, the Children of Israel. No one will dare touch us! The fear of G-d will be upon them!
"And the earth quaked and roared, the foundations of the heaven shook; they trembled when His wrath flared. Smoke rose up in His nostrils, a devouring fire from His mouth; flaming coals burst forth from Him… Hashem thundered in the heavens, the Most High cried out. He sent forth His arrows and scattered them … lightning, and He frenzied them…. For You, Hashem … will illuminate my darkness…. He is a tower of salvations to His king, and does kindness to His anointed one, to Dovid and to his descendants forever…." (Haftara Seventh Day Passover)
"Ohr chadash … May You shine a new light on Tzion and may we all speedily merit to [to see] it. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who fashions the luminaries." (Shacharis)
Ashalim Solar Power Plant
© Copyright 2018 by Roy S. Neuberger


BrightSource Energy is partnering with General Electric (GE) and NOY Infrastructure & Energy Investment Fund to build the 121 MW Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station in Israel's Negev desert. GE is responsible for the engineering, the procurement and the construction (EPC) of the solar power station, with BrightSource providing the advanced solar field technology. 

The BrightSource-GE-NOY Megalim project is one of three projects selected under Israel's Ashalim 250 megawatt total solar tender. It will be located on Plot B and feature BrightSource's concentrating solar power (CSP) tower technology. More than 50,000 computer-controlled heliostats, or mirrors, that track the sun on two axes and reflect sunlight onto a boiler on top of a 250-meter tower. Construction is underway and the facility is scheduled to be completed in 2019 Q1. When operational, the Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station will help Israel achieve its goal of having 10 percent of its electricity production from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Project Overview

A 121 megawatt solar complex using mirrors to focus the power of the sun on solar receivers atop power towers.

  • The electricity generated at Ashalim will be enough to supply 120,000 homes with clean energy
  • The complex will avoid 110,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year over the course of its life
  • This project will create up to 1,000 jobs at peak construction
Click HERE for Ashalim images
Bit off more than it could chew

4,500-pound great white shark found dead with sea turtle stuck in its mouth

Great white shark with sea turtle in mouth
A great white shark is seen with the remains of a sea turtle in its mouth in this image posted to Facebook. (Greg Vella / Facebook)

Perhaps the great white shark bit off more than it could chew. It's not known why a 4,500-pound great white died, but when it was found, there was a massive sea turtle stuck in its mouth.

A Facebook post from an account by the name of Greg Vella to the Commercial Salmon, Albacore and & Crab Fishers group showed images of the great white that Vella said was found dead tangled in some netting while fishing off the shores of Japan.

"I was out commercial 'ken ken' style fishing for tuna (Japan, Pacific Ocean side) when I heard chatter on the radio that there was a white shark swimming around with a big sea turtle in is mouth," reads the post. "People started to joke about it, so I did not pay it any more attention. Then next day, it was found dead, near the bait receivers, tangled in some netting."

The images show the shark laid out on the docks next to local boats, but do not identify how long the shark was. The sea turtle seems to be half digested.

"The captains I interviewed who saw the mighty shark the day before, said it looked close to death, as it could not dislodge the giant turtle. The commercial guys were bummed, as white sharks do not bother their commercial fishing, and most certainly do bother the things that eat our catch."

The post made on April 19 has nearly 10,000 shares.

See more images on the Facebook group page.

Lake Michigan's deadly 'freak wave' of 1954 is Chicago folklore. Turns out it was a meteotsunami. And they happen pretty often.


On a Saturday in June 1954, Marvin Katz motored his cabin cruiser onto Lake Michigan for what was supposed to be a pleasant day of fishing.

However, when his father became seasick, Katz headed back to shore to let him off and settled for dropping anchor near Chicago's Montrose Harbor, where dozens of people, mostly fishermen, gathered on a lakefront breakwater.

Waiting for hisfirst nibble of the morning, Katz remembers feeling the boat lightly rock. Then he looked toward shore and saw the breakwater had nearly been wiped clean: Some people were clinging to the rocks, others werefloundering in the mouth of the harbor amid an entanglement of fishing rods and bait boxes.

"It just happened so fast. The water rose in seconds," Katz, an 87-year-old Wilmette resident, recalled nearly 65 years later. "It was like an elevator was pushing it up. We looked up and realized all these people were in the water drowning and there was no one to help."

What is a meteotsunami? Why a little-known wave poses a major threat in the Great Lakes

Katz steered the powerboat alongside a 50-year-old man struggling to stay afloat and pulled him aboard. In the time it took to rescue him, the frenzied cries for help quieted and no one was left above water.

In a matter of minutes, an 8- to 10-foot "freak wave" spanning from north suburban Wilmette Harbor to North Avenue Beach in Chicago had submerged the lakefront, killing eight people.

In the decades sincethat violentswell pummeled Chicago, it has become the subject of local folklore and, recently, the budding topic of scientific research. Today, scientists have determined the North Shore was struck by a meteorological tsunami (commonly called meteotsunamis) rather than a seiche, as originally reported.

Lake Michigan — long recognized as the deadliest of the Great Lakes — sees the most of these rogue waveseach year. Chicago, the most populous metropolitan area on the Great Lakes, is drubbed by 29 meteotsunamis on average each year, by far the most of anywhere along the 4,500 miles of Great Lakes shoreline in the United States, according to researchers. By comparison, Buffalo, N.Y., on Lake Erie's far eastern edge, experiences the second most with 17 per year.


Unlike typical lake waves that roll by every three to five seconds, meteotsunamis can last for two minutes to up to two hours, dramatically raising localized lake levels and spawning dangerous rip currents that can carryswimmers offshore. Although many of these weather-generated waves are often modest in height — sometimes only standing 1 or 2 feet tall — their longevity can be formidable. But the 1954 wave, set in motion by a dramatic rise in atmospheric pressure and straight-line winds, was colossal, roiling the shoreline for 15 minutes, scientists say.

While these waves previously were thought to be rare, recent studies by the University of Wisconsin at Madison revealed they are quite common and sometimes responsible for a water hazard more familiar to Chicagoans — rip currents.More than 100 meteotsunamis occur across the Great Lakes each year, many prompting rescue efforts or causing significant damage to coastal infrastructure.

Not only has the threat posed by meteotsunamis been seriously underestimated, according to scientists, but the bulk of these waves occur in the late spring and early summer, overlapping with much of beach season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Michigan, is working to create a forecast and warning system to alert boaters and beachgoers about meteotsunamis as they develop across the Great Lakes.

"Just like other waves, these things can be dangerous," said Eric Anderson, a scientist at NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. "They can injure or kill people and cause problems for shoreline property owners. But there is a gap in our ability to forecast. One could happen tomorrow and a weather forecast wouldn't be able to predict it was coming. We don't have the capacity."

Atmospheric origins

In 1935, Japanese professor Takaharu Nomitsu was the first to describe "tsunamis of atmospheric origin," waves that were triggered by weather systems rather than earthquakes like true tsunamis.

The term meteorological tsunami was coined in 1961 by Austrian scholar Albert Defant.

Before the phrase became popularized, these catastrophic flooding events took on other names across the globe. Along the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, locals referred to them as "sea bears." In the Mediterranean Sea, near the Straits of Sicily, southern Italians called them the "mad sea" phenomena.

Although the magnitude of these waves is less than true tsunamis that are generated by earthquakes or landslides, weather-induced tsunamis are more widespread and occur more often.

"Meteotsunamis are not a unique thing in the Great Lakes," said Chin Wu, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin. "They are everywhere else in the world: East Coast, West Coast, Europe, Asia. But in the Great Lakes, we are the one place where itturns out to be so dangerous, because sometimes you do not see the storm and it's hitting you with no sign.

"This is more risky. And more risk is what we haven't prepared for."

More: What is a meteotsunami? Why a little-known wave poses a major threat in the Great Lakes »

Historical accounts have also erroneously described them as seiches.

Seiches and meteotsunamis are both caused by spikes in air pressure and driving winds, which cause water to pile up as a storm moves across a lake. But they differ in size and timespan. A seiche is a singular lakewide wave rocking back and forth while a meteotsunami is generally the width of a storm front and lasts for a shorter period of time.

Seiches, which can flood coastal areas for several hours, are frequently compared to water sloshing back and forth in a bathtub. A meteotsunami, on the other hand, has been described as being similar to the effect of running one's hand across the surface of water in a bathtub.

Chicago's predisposition to meteotsunamis stems from a combination of factors, including the intensity, direction and speed of storms, in addition to the depth and shape of Lake Michigan. The shallow waters and prevalence of storms make it a "sweet spot" for meteotsunami activity.

"Southern Lake Michigan kind of has a natural setting where the speed (of a storm) needed to create a meteotsunami is possible and the shape of the lake points them toward Chicago," said Adam Bechle, a coastal resilience outreach specialist for the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.

Fast-moving storms capable of stirring up a meteotsunami move across Lake Michigan from west to east, guiding a wave toward western Michigan or northwest Indiana. When the storm passes onto land, the wave rocks against the shore and ricochets back toward Chicago.

"The risk of it impacting people goes up when it's decoupled from the storm that made it," Anderson said. "When a meteotsunami gets close, and it's associated with lightning and a thunderstorm, people know to take certain precautions to protect themselves. When it pinballs back to the other side of the lake, it's more hazardous because it could happen under sunny skies."

That's precisely what happened on June 26, 1954.


A line of storms raced from Wisconsin toward southwestern Michigan and northeast Indiana faster than an express CTA train. In Michigan City, Ind., the Coast Guard warned boaters to return to harbor and the Army Corps of Engineers evacuated droves of people from a shoreline pier before the 6- to 8-foot meteotsunami walloped the shoreline.

Volunteer divers Robert Domkowski, left, and Chuck Napravnik search for missing bodies on June 26, 1954, at Montrose Harbor after what was believed to be a seiche hit the lakefront. Experts have since determined it was a meteorological tsunami. (Chicago Tribune)

Once the squall crossed over onto land, the winds died down on Lake Michigan, allowing the wave to double back across the lake with little resistance. About an hour later in Chicago, where the weather was fair and the waters were calm, hundreds of people along the lakefront were caught off-guard by a roughly 10-foot wall of water.

"When the lake gets angry, it's usually a constant upheaval where the waves keep coming in one after another," said Katz, the witness to the 1954 meteotsunami, looking out the window of his lakefront condo. "This was not that at all. The water just rose — straight up."

The tragedy underscores the danger for cities along western Lake Michigan where the weather can be fine, but a bygone or faraway weather system could produce a meteotsunami.

"It's a unique danger for the Great Lakes, because they are enclosed basins where (meteotsunamis) bounce across the lake, sometimes several times, until they decay and die off," Anderson said.

The number of meteotsunami episodes could grow in the future as climate change creates conditions favorable for more thunderstorms capable of producing large wave fronts. But even right now, during this current period of high lake levels, the swift waves have the potential to be more menacing.

"A beach that was originally 100 or 200 feet becomes 10 feet or 20 feet, and people have a shorter time to respond," Wu said.

More: How will climate change affect Chicago and the Midwest? Here's what the experts are telling us. »

Small waves still dangerous

While the 1954 meteotsunami is perhaps the most infamous example of the monumental size and force these waves can reach, much smaller meteotsunamis have proved capable of being just as deadly.

On July 4, 2003, a formation of storm cells unleashed gusts up to 50 mph on Lake Michigan, blowing through southwestern Michigan in 20 minutes, creating a 1-foot meteotsunami across Lake Michigan. Hours later, once the ominous storm clouds passed and the sun broke through, beachgoers descended on the lakefront.

One by one, swimmers began to disappear. Seven people, all with Chicago ties, died within four hours, including three members of a South Side congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses who drowned at Warren Dunes State Park.

Rescue workers try to revive fisherman John Jaworski, 52, at North Avenue Beach after a huge wave hit the lakefront and killed eight people on June 26, 1954. Jaworski was swept off the pier and was one of the eight people killed. (Chicago Tribune)

Researchers say when the meteotsunami rolled away from the shoreline and caromed to the other side of the lake, it created a strong undercurrent that began plucking beachgoers from shallow water.

A study published earlier this year re-examined 94 fatalities and 298 rescues involving rip currents at Lake Michigan beaches over 15 years. Sixteen percent of the deaths and 12 percent of rescues occurred on the same day as a meteotsunami, suggesting a connection between the two beach hazards.

The Great Lakes saw 118 drownings in 2018, by far the most since the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project began keeping track in 2010. Director Dave Benjamin acknowledges the threat posed by meteotsunamis, but he said only one-third of the drownings in the region are caused by dangerous waves or currents. To him, it speaks to a larger need for overall water safety education.

Meteotsunamis are "sort of the sharks of the Great Lakes," Benjamin said. "It gets national news, but there are only a small percentage of people affected."

"States spend millions on top of millions of dollars in tourism campaigns to bring people to Great Lakes states — for revenue and taxes — but almost nothing is spent on water safety."

Still a mystery

Tsunamis in generalhave been portrayed in illustrations as lofty, curling waves poised to tumble atop anything in their path. In reality, historical accounts describe a much stealthier encounter. Some researchers suggest it may appear to be a rounded swell of water, the true scope of which can't be perceived due to its enormous size.

"When you look at old events, it really speaks to that nature of this phenomenon," Anderson said. "These seem to appear out of nowhere. A lot of times it doesn't seem like it's connected to any kind of reality because these waves are beyond the scale of what we can see."

Though Lake Michigan experiences the most meteotsunamis of any of the Great Lakes with an average of 51 events annually, other shorelines across the region are not immune.

On Lake Erie, near Cleveland, a 7-foot meteotsunami washed three swimmers more than a half-mile offshore before they could be rescued in 2012. On Lake Superior, one overran the Soo Locks, paralyzing shipping operations and prompting evacuations of shoreline homes in Canada in 2014.

Maurice Wilson, 57, fishes at Calumet Park in Chicago on April 22, 2019. Scientists analyzed up to 20 years of water level records from 32 gauges to see how often meteotsunamis occur. The measuring station at Calumet Harbor experienced 29 per year on average, by far the most. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune)

According to experts, the only verified photographic evidence of a meteotsunami event on the Great Lakes was captured last year in Ludington, Mich., by seasoned outdoor photographer Todd Reed.

When the skies darkened over Ludington in April 2018, Reed drove to the beachfront, where he noticed the breakwater leading to the city's historic lighthouse was flooded. Through hail and rain, he snapped a few photos from Stearns Park Beach and moved to a different vantage point.

About 10 minutes later, Reed returned to his original position to find the water had receded and the rock pilings were once again exposed. While Reed thought he'd witnessed a seiche, scientists say he actually captured one of two meteotsunamis that struck Ludington on the same day.


"You almost don't realize what's happening, and I think that's part of the danger," said Reed, a former photographer with The Ludington Daily News and a longtime Coast Guard reservist. "Fortunately no fishermen were on the pier to the lighthouse, because that's an eighth of a mile you would have to had to walk or run very quickly.

"Looking back in history, some of these instances where some people have drowned and maybe it looked like they were being careless, I think maybe the danger wasn't as obvious as we might've thought."

Katz, the 1954 witness, still struggles to describe the catastrophe. An avid lake-farer, he was used to being tossed in choppy waters. But this was different. This was insidious.

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The coroner's jury deemed the cause of death "an act of God," according to Tribune archives.

Even 65 years later, he is still dumbfounded by the temperament of the swell.

"It was a humbling experience because you realize how powerful nature can be and what it can do in a short period of time."

Twitter @_TonyBriscoe

First Jewish President of Ukraine Holds 'Historic' Meeting With Rabbis

Comedian-turned-politician Volodymyr Zelensky greeted Ukraine's Chabad rabbis

By Dovid MargolinMay 7, 2019 3:56 PM
 President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine's first-ever Jewish president, held a high-profile meeting with Ukraine's regional chief rabbis on May 6. Here, the comedian-turned-politician is presented with a Chumash in Russian translation by Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki and Rabbi Avraham Wolff, as other members of the delegation look on.
President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine's first-ever Jewish president, held a high-profile meeting with Ukraine's regional chief rabbis on May 6. Here, the comedian-turned-politician is presented with a Chumash in Russian translation by Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki and Rabbi Avraham Wolff, as other members of the delegation look on.

Ukraine's President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky held what was called a "historic" meeting on May 6 in Kiev with the six leading representatives of the country's Jewish community.

The meeting with the chief rabbis of Ukraine's six most populous regions—geographically representing the whole country—included Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki of Dnipro, Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz of Kharkov, Rabbi Avraham Wolff of Odessa, Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm of Zhitomir and Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski of Donetsk. Rabbi Moshe Asman, rabbi of the central Brodsky synagogue in Kiev, also attended.

The delegation was led by Kaminezki, who says the conversation touched on the enormous size of Ukraine's Jewish community, which he estimates at some 500,000 individuals, and its status today. "This is the sixth-largest Jewish population in the world, and he was interested in every detail: why people stay, why they leave, what we're all seeing in our individual communities."

Zelensky, a Jewish comedian and television personality-turned-politician, won more than 70 percent of the vote in Ukraine's April 21 run-off election, ousting sitting President Petro Poroshenko. In a case of real life mimicking television, Zelensky had previously played a schoolteacher who accidentally finds himself president of Ukraine, before finding himself president of Ukraine.

What is no joke (joke puns have proliferated in headlines since Zelensky announced his candidacy) is the high-profile visibility with which he has embraced his Jewishness, not a small factor in a country with as deep and troubled a history of anti-Semitism as Ukraine.

Zelensky (center) met with the rabbis at his offices in Kiev. From right: Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz of Kharkov, Rabbi Pinchas Vishedsky of Donetsk, Rabbi Moshe Asman of Kiev, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki of Dnipro, Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm of Zhitomir and Rabbi Avraham Wolff of Odessa.
Zelensky (center) met with the rabbis at his offices in Kiev. From right: Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz of Kharkov, Rabbi Pinchas Vishedsky of Donetsk, Rabbi Moshe Asman of Kiev, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki of Dnipro, Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm of Zhitomir and Rabbi Avraham Wolff of Odessa.

A Sense of Euphoria

"There is a sense of euphoria in the Jewish community that the man who won the presidency is openly Jewish. That's historic," says Moskovitz, chief rabbi and head Chabad emissary in the Kharkov region in the country's east. "He won and with a big percentage, and his being Jewish wasn't an issue in this campaign at all. That's very heartening to everyone here."

Anti-Jewish history in Ukraine, where the plurality of Jews in the Russian Empire once lived, runs deep. Even prior to the Holocaust, Ukraine was the site of the infamous pogroms of 1919-1921—a third conducted at the hands of Ukrainian nationalist bands—causing the death, either directly or due to disease, of some 150,000 Jews. Local collaboration in Holocaust-era German atrocities, including among other places at Kiev's Babi Yar killing grounds, is also an established fact.

While anything close to such terror has long been a thing of the past, a more casual anti-Semitism has prevailed for years. In recent decades, street-level anti-Semitism was a staple of everyday life for Ukrainian Jews, although such incidents have fallen rapidly in the last 10 years and even more in the last five. In fact, it's come to the point where local Jews do not place it among their immediate worries, saying they feel more comfortable displaying their Jewishness openly in Ukraine than they do in many parts of western Europe.

 The conversation touched on the enormous size of Ukraine's Jewish community, which is estimated to be as high as 500,000 individuals.
The conversation touched on the enormous size of Ukraine's Jewish community, which is estimated to be as high as 500,000 individuals.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Jewish politicians throughout Ukraine, from the local to the national level, have most often either buried or shied away from their Jewish identity. Non-Jews, if or when accused of being Jewish as part of an opposition smear campaign, vehemently denied it, often rushing to publicly tout their Orthodox Christian beliefs.

Not so with Zelensky, whose open Jewish identity was not a factor during the election and his eventual landslide victory.

Similar presidential meetings with rabbis have taken place in the last nearly three decades, but never with such publicity. In this case, not long after his meeting with the Chabad rabbis, Zelensky posted a picture and a long statement to his popular Instagram page, garnering 38,000 likes in the first few hours.

In his post, Zelensky quoted Kaminezki as telling him, "A little bit of light drives away a lot of darkness. There are three central factors behind the success of your leadership: justice, honesty and peace. Never do what you would not wish to be done to you."

"This is the sixth-largest Jewish population in the world," says Kaminezki (pictured). "He was interested in every detail: why people stay, why they leave, what we're all seeing in our individual communities."

Difficulties as a Jewish Child in the Soviet Union

Zelensky hails from the industrial city of Krivoy Rog, and in the meeting recalled to the rabbis the difficulties he experienced growing up as a Jewish child in the Soviet Union. These days, Chabad has affiliated Jewish communities in some 160 cities and towns throughout the country, and Zelensky was briefed on the vast network of schools, synagogues and social-services centers under its auspices.

For the last five years, Ukraine has grappled with war in the breakaway eastern regions of the country, which although less intense still simmers, and many hope Zelensky's approach to settling the conflict will be more pragmatic than previous attempts. Additionally, one of his strong selling points during the campaign was his profile as a political neophyte in a country struggling with endemic corruption.

"He is very serious about his forthcoming job as president of Ukraine and accomplishing good for the entire country," Kaminezki, chief rabbi of the Dnipro—a city formerly known as Dnepropetrovsk, and home to the sprawling Menorah Center, the largest Jewish center in the world—tells "Without even getting into the Jewish aspect, this is a clean, honest individual; educated, solid morals. There is a lot of hope here."

The meeting was held in Zelensky's 21st-floor Kiev office, from which the killing grounds of Babi Yar can be made out. Kaminezki told the president-elect—who at the conclusion was presented with a Chumash ( Five Books of Moses) with a Russian translation—that his election was a part of the healing process of the country, particularly its Jewish community.

Zelensky hails from the industrial city of Krivoy Rog, and in the meeting recalled to the rabbis the difficulties he experienced growing up as a Jewish child in the Soviet Union.
Zelensky hails from the industrial city of Krivoy Rog, and in the meeting recalled to the rabbis the difficulties he experienced growing up as a Jewish child in the Soviet Union.

"The emissaries who were sent here by the Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory] didn't come here for a certain amount of time; we're here until Moshiach comes," Kaminezki told Zelensky, whose Instagram also quoted him as saying there was no contradiction to being a Jew and a patriotic Ukrainian. "We believe that Jews can live and grow here, that there is a great future for the Jews of Ukraine."

 Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski, whose community in Donetsk and eastern Ukraine has been split in two since the eastern war began in 2014, speaks with Zelensky.
Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski, whose community in Donetsk and eastern Ukraine has been split in two since the eastern war began in 2014, speaks with Zelensky.
The rabbis noted that Zelensky has still not lost his sense of humor.
The rabbis noted that Zelensky has still not lost his sense of humor.
From left: Moskovitz, Wilhelm, Wolff, Zelensky, Kaminezki, Asman and Vishedsky
From left: Moskovitz, Wilhelm, Wolff, Zelensky, Kaminezki, Asman and Vishedsky

See you tomorrow
Love Yehuda Lave
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