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In historical first, Jewish leader honored with Ukraine’s Medal of Honor

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Last week, Kiev’s Chief Rabbi, Yonatan Markovitch was officially awarded the Medal and Certificate of Honor at the nation’s parliament building

By ILANIT CHERNICK

For the first time in Ukrainian history, a local rabbi has been awarded the country’s medal of honor.

Last week, Kiev’s Chief Rabbi, Yonatan Markovitch was officially awarded the Medal and Certificate of Honor at the nation’s parliament building – the Verkhona Rada of Ukraine. 

According to a statement released following this momentous occasion, the award is given out every year to the outstanding individuals in the world of science, culture, and art, as well as to the public leaders who have made an important contribution to the Ukrainian public and the state. 

“It is the first time in the country’s history that a Jewish religious leader has been honored with the highest award of the Ukrainian Parliament,” the statement stressed. 

The rabbi was honored with this award “for his many years of dedicated work for the common good of all the people in the country and for the sake of the Jewish community.”

The statement said Markovitch was nominated for the award by Alexander Kunitsky, chairman of the “Israel–Ukraine” parliamentary committee and People’s Deputy of Ukraine, as well Dmytro Razumkov, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada.

Expressing their congratulations to Markovitch, videos from Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Israel’s interior minister Aryeh Deri, Israel’s minister of religious affairs Yaakov Avitan, and Jerusalem mayor Moshe Leon were played during the ceremony.

The award ceremony was also attended by prominent leaders from the country’s local Jewish community, as well as by the people’s deputies including Kunitskiy, Alina Zagoruiko, Vadim Strunevich, and Larisa Bilozir. 

Speaking at the ceremony, several parliamentarians shared their gratitude for the special contribution made by the Jewish community, led by Rabbi Markovitch, to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. 

In recent months, members of the Kiev Jewish community have launched a massive campaign aimed at assisting senior citizens during the pandemic. 

“As part of this ongoing project, the underserved seniors have received thousands of food assistance packages,” the statement said. “Major educational work aimed at raising public awareness about the issues and unique challenges that the elderly face is also underway.”

The Jewish-community led campaign has also encouraged younger family members to be in touch with their grandparents as they continue to be more vulnerable and susceptible to loneliness because they need to be isolated due to the pandemic.

Markovitch was also recognized for his service to the local community and Jews from around the world who travel to the country as well as to Uman every year. 

The Parliamentary Medal of Honor was not the only award Markovitch has received. 

On Ukraine’s Independence Day a few weeks ago, the country’s President Vladimir Zelensky signed a decree honor Markovitch with the nation’s highest award: The Order of Merit.

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