On Wednesday, an elderly Jewish man with no living Jewish relatives passed away in the town of Bila Tserkva, Ukraine. A Christian burial ceremony was planned for the deceased until a local rabbi heard the news and notified United Hatzalah volunteer Naftali Rabinovich from Uman.
Rabinovich was in Bila Tserkva together with United Hatzalah CEO Eli Pollak, VP of Operations Dov Maisel, and additional volunteers as part of a delegation sent by the organization to distribute generators to schools, orphanages, and medical clinics. The campaign began on Tuesday in response to the extreme winter conditions, coupled with severe electric shortages caused by the war.
Members of the delegation put the distribution on hold temporarily and rushed to the cemetery where the deceased was moments away from being buried in a Christian ritual. After obtaining permission from the authorities, they immediately took the crosses off of the casquet and covered the body with a talit, before carrying out a Jewish funeral.
Team members recited Tehillim and said the Kaddish and El Maleh Rahamim prayers for the dead. The body was then laid to rest, and the volunteers put dirt into the casket in keeping with Jewish burial rites and carried the body to its final resting place. They lowered the wooden coffin into the grave and covered the grave with dirt.
Dov Maisel said, “United Hatzalah prides itself on offering help to everyone, Jewish and non-Jewish. In this instance, we paused our deliveries of generators for a short time to help a man receive a proper burial according to his faith. Most of our emergencies are usually focused on saving lives, but we help wherever and whenever we can.”
“It was a humbling and moving experience for me,” said Eli Pollack. “We managed to scrape together a minyan and recited the kaddish for our fellow Jew who was about to have a non-Jewish funeral. I am happy to have merited to participate in this act of kindness upon kindness.”