As Passover approaches, Mitzva Tank takes Ukraine by storm

Amid Ukraine war, synagogue on wheels to tour war-torn country to prepare its Jewish communities for the festival; 'Thanks to their activity, entire communities can now celebrate Passover'

The Russia-Ukraine war has been disrupting all aspects of life in Ukraine for over two years. For three decades, Chabad emissaries have flocked to Ukraine for Passover but that sadly changed due to the ongoing war and dozens of remote Jewish communities without a synagogue or a permanent rabbi will have to celebrate the holiday alone. This year, a Mitzva Tank will make rounds across Ukraine to help Jews celebrate Passover.
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יגיעו לעיירות נידחות וגם לערים גדולות. "הטנק" באוקראינה
יגיעו לעיירות נידחות וגם לערים גדולות. "הטנק" באוקראינה
The Mitzva Tank will reach the farthest places to help Jews celebrate the holiday
(Photo: Chabad)
The Federation of Jewish Communities of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Ukraine joined forces with Kyiv Chief Rabbi Moshe Azman and began operating synagogue-on-wheels tours across the country so that even the most remote residents could celebrate Passover according to tradition.
The vehicle can accommodate several people in its living quarters in fold-out beds and includes a hospitality room, a kitchen, bathrooms and showers. This vehicle resembles Chabad's Mitzvah Tank in Brooklyn which promotes Chabad activities in the U.S.
Rabbi Azman purchased two "tanks" on the eve of the war to travel with them across the country. However, the danger of traveling in Ukraine, as well as the fact that tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews were displaced, made these vehicles irrelevant.
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נסיעות ארוכות לקראת הפסח
נסיעות ארוכות לקראת הפסח
The vehicle is built to accommodate Passover guests
(Photo: Chabad)
"The collaboration led to using the tanks, and after the successful run we had these days, they will start moving more frequently to bring Judaism to distant places in the country. This year marks 50 years since the founding of the first 'Mitzva Tank' by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and it seems that this project is suitable for marking the event," said Federation of Jewish Communities Chairman Rabbi Meir Stambler.
Four men, including sons of Chabad emissaries from Ukraine who drive the tank, are bringing the spirit of the Passover festival wherever they can. They establish connections with heads of small communities and arrange special meetings ahead of Passover. At those meetings, they organize a mock Passover Seder dinner, distribute matzah and holiday kits on behalf of the Federation, children's books and Jewish texts and even affix hundreds of mezuzahs in Jewish homes.
"Thanks to their activity, entire communities can now celebrate the Passover holiday. The rabbis themselves are very busy with the many preparations for the holiday, and the involvement of young men who grew up and were born here and know the language and mentality helps us bring Judaism to every Jew."
President Volodymyr Zelensky send his wishes on last year's Passover
Eli Kurtzweil from Dnipro, the oldest member of the "tank" team, said, "On the first day we traveled for 12 hours, and in recent days, we are averaging 6-7 hours of driving a day, but we are happy to take part in this important mission. To see Jews smiling at the sight of the tank and the music coming from it, and their excitement about the holiday's explanation makes it all worth it."
The mobile synagogue toured last week in Bohuslav, Kaniv and Pereiaslav, and this week will reach Boryspil, Lubny, Smila, Myrhorod, Novomoskovsk and more. In addition to the remote towns, it will also reach central cities.
"In Uman, we will help Rabbi Yaakov Jan, in Cherkasy to Rabbi Dov Axelrod, in Poltava to Rabbi Yosef Segal, in Dnipro to Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki, in Odesa to Rabbi Avraham Wolff, in Kyiv to Rabbi Mordechai Levenhartz and Rabbi Shneur Deitch in Hadyach," Kurtzweil said.
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