Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

11 October 2016. Yom Kippur Begins at Sundown Tonight



Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days in the Jewish Year, begins tonight at sundown. If your Jewish friends need a hand today… give it! Run an errand, watch the kids, walk the dog… whatever that they might need on this hectic day for them. It’s what decent people do… tomorrow, give ’em the space to honour their day of repentance. That’s the best gift that you can give them.


Sunday, 28 April 2013

St Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Surrey BC: “An Island Amongst Sinners”

00 Rev Mykhaylo Pozdyk. St Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Surrey BC. 28.04.13


A half-dozen years ago, bullets flew into the walls of St Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Surrey BC (part of the Greater Vancouver Regional District). That should tell you all that you need to know about the crime, drugs, homelessness, and squalor that surround the church’s gold-coloured dome in Whalley. Rev Mykhaylo Pozdyk said, “We’re like an island amongst sinners. The picture isn’t good, but we’re proud to be here to be God’s witness”. Although he said that dying in the church would be a “great honour”, it was fortunate that no one was around at the time of the drug-­related shooting spree.

The church is on 135A Street, in a two-block section that’s generally-considered Surrey’s worst stretch of pavement. When Ukrainian immigrants chose the spot for the church 50 years ago, the town centre was thriving. Today, the building’s white walls and blue-painted trim stand apart from nearby vacant lots and rundown buildings. Fr Mykhaylo said that the street people in the neighbourhood are friendly for the most part, but thefts occur and church property is sometimes destroyed, noting, “People ask for money but they usually don’t want food”.

As difficult as life is for the disadvantaged in downtown Whalley, Pozdyk saw much worse under Soviet rule in the Ukraine, where he lived until moving to Canada in 1996. He said, “Here we have more respect and value for people. Canada’s a rich country with many government programmes to help them”. He went on to say that churches were shut down for several generations in his homeland and KGB agents lurked in every village and organisation, observing, “Communists denied God’s existence”. Pozdyk was secretly married in a church in 1987 at the beginning of Mikhail Gorbachyov’s period of thaw. Ukrainian people flocked to the churches when the doors opened after independence in 1991.

He stated that the churches there aren’t as well attended now because people chase after the same material goals as they do in the West, saying, “As soon as you sign a mortgage, you’re a slave to the mortgage. You have no time for God”. Although Pozdyk has bought a house here, and smiles about it, he remains faithful to his spiritual duties, telling us, “We’re temporary in this world… pilgrims. Freedom you can only find in God. We ­glorify God for everything we have in this life. We say ‘thank you’ for the forgiveness of our sins. I’m still a sinner and I’m trying my best to grow ­spiritually”.


What’s your congregation’s religion?

Our congregation is part of One Holy Orthodox-Catholic and Apostolic Church.

What would you put in a tweet? 

We’re blessed to worship in this beautiful little church that’s on the City of Surrey Heritage Register. We welcome everyone, and we’ll treat you as best as we can.

How many people attend services?

40 to 70

What’s traditional?

Our worship is Liturgical, Eucharistic, and Jesus-centred.

What’s modern?

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

What’s the most beautiful thing about your church?

Praising God and worshipping Him in spirit and truth together with all the people who come here and have hope that all their names will be written in the Book of Life.

Give us your sense of what’s happening in the area around the church.

Hard-working people who were busy with supporting their families built this church between 1950 and 1955. At the same time, they worked hard to build a new place of worship. At that time, it was a good area. Now, the church finds itself on one of the poorest streets in town.

26 April 2013

Kent Spencer

The Province


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Rav Lazar Asked Jews to Prepare Themselves Adequately for Yom Kippur… the Day of Atonement



Jews are preparing to observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a time for repentance, and the remission of sins. On Friday evening, at the Moscow Jewish Community Centre, Jewish believers will meet for services, where a famous cantor from New York, Shneur Zalman Baumgarten, shall lead the ceremony.

“On this day, God finally determines the fate of everyone for the coming year; He forgives our sins, and seals us in the Book of Life. Throughout the Days of Awe, we prayed to the Creator to show us mercy”, Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar said in his Yom Kippur message, which was quoted by his press office. He noted that the Jewish sages taught that there was a threefold way “to mitigate the Lord’s verdict”… repentance, prayer, and charity. Rav Lazar pointed up that “repentance” (in Hebrew, תשובה‎: teshuva) literally means, “return”. He wrote, “Simply put, repenting wrong actions and promising not to repeat them is only the beginning. Then, we must move on to the most important point… we must return to God and recover our true essence, because each of us is created in His image and likeness. When we make such a ‘return’, we’re transformed; it opens up within us our previously-hidden God-given true nature”. Rav Lazar said, “To proceed, believers must pray, because it’s a direct channel of communication with the Creator, and when we establish such a connection, we can return to the God-given fundamentals, and embody our repentance in action, in good works“. He hoped that Jewish believers would fulfil all three components of the Atonement, that it wouldn’t only provide them with “a good and sweet new year, a good testimony, and a place in the Book of Life, but that it would also hasten the redemption of all things, the coming of the Messiah”.

Yom Kippur ends the ten days of repentance in the month of Tishrei that seals the ultimate fate of each person in the coming year (the first day is Rosh ha-Shana (Rosh Hashanah), Jewish New Year). The Bible describes it as a Day of Atonement before God; people should rest from work and not “trouble their souls”. However, Yom Kippur isn’t considered a day of sorrow and grief.

7 October 2011



Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Rosh Hashanah 5771! Happy Jewish New Year!


On Wednesday evening, the Moscow Jewish community centre will host a celebration of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) led by the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rav Berel Lazar. Worshippers will light holiday candles and hold a prayer service for the New Year, featuring a famous cantor from New York City, Rav Shneur Zalman Baumgarten, a spokesman for the FEOR told our Interfax-Religion correspondent.



During the prayers for the New Year, believers must bring before Almighty God an accounting of the year just past, repent of all the evil deeds they committed, and come back to God. They greet one another with the words, “May you be written and sealed for a good year” (ketiva ve-chatima tovah). On the same day, there will be a concert at the community centre featuring the male Jewish choir Хасидская капелла (Hasidic Cappella), and on Thursday, there will be a festive worship service where the faithful will gather in the courtyard of the centre for the blowing of the shofar, a special ceremonial horn. The sound of the shofar reminds believers that they must be mindful of the Kingdom of God. In ancient times, the sounding of the shofar celebrated the coronation of kings. Jews date their calendar from the traditional date for the creation of the world, and the coming year will be 5771 [according to their reckoning].



Jews celebrate the New Year for two days, they believe that God weighs the deeds of mankind and determines the fate of each person for the coming year. Ancient Jewish tradition teaches that the name of everyone living on earth is written in the Book of Life in Heaven. During the days of Rosh Hashanah, God writes in this book the fate of all living people on earth, “who shall live and who shall die, who shall rest and who shall wander, who shall have pleasure and who shall have pain, and who shall have want and who shall have plenty”. Jewish believers set a festive table for the New Year, but the ceremony of blessing the meal (Kiddush) doesn’t begin as on regular days, it begins with bread and salt, then, bread with honey. After the Kiddush proper, there’s a blessing over fruit, and one then eats apples dipped in honey. As they do so, Jews say, “Thy will be done, O God of our Fathers, give us a good and sweet year”.



Rav Berel Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia, marked the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) on the Jewish calendar. In his address to the faithful, he pointed up that repentance was the overriding theme of this holiday. “Many people are afraid of the word ‘repentance’, they think that it’s much too difficult and painful, it’s beyond their strength. In fact, nothing is more natural for a man to do. Repentance for a believing Jew isn’t loud lamentations or self-punishment, it isn’t torturing yourself with fasting, or other such exercises”, Rav Lazar said in a statement released by his press office on Wednesday. “Rather, it means to honestly admit to yourself what you’ve done wrong, and to honestly promise to God and yourself that you shall not continue to commit such acts, you’re going to set a positive programme of action for the morrow. Having rejected unjust actions, a man returns to God and to himself, to his own human nature. It’s obvious that everyone wants good things in their life and everyone wants respect! Everyone wants to be closer to God! So… don’t be afraid to repent, it’s not a great trial, but, it’s a great relief to find the road to happiness and peace for your soul”, he said.


NB: The intro takes about a minute before the music proper begins…


Rav Lazar reminded us that we sound the shofar during these holidays in all the synagogues to awaken people “from their spiritual slumber, to help them heal. What’s more, the sound of the shofar symbolises the cry of the human heart that knows that it can and should live differently, and it knows, with God’s help, that it can restore every splendid detail of its spirituality, righteousness, joy, and happiness. In the coming year, I wish that every one of you makes a true return to God, and through this joyous return, to find yourself, your true spiritual nature”, Rav Lazar concluded.


The Jewish community in Russia makes a significant contribution to the preservation of our national and cultural diversity, to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding in our society.

President Dmitri Medvedev


President Dmitri Medvedev greeted Russian Jews on the Jewish New Year, the 5,771th since the creation of the world. “Russian Jews, in accordance with their ancient religious beliefs, especially honour this holiday of spiritual purification with bright hopes for the future. It leads to the encouragement of creativity and moral perfection, to mutual understanding, kindness, and love for one’s neighbour. These values are dear to all religious believers. Over the centuries, they’ve been the basis for good-neighbourliness, peace, and harmony in our country”, according to the President’s telegram, as released by the Kremlin press service. The message went on to emphasise, “Today, in a revival of its rich traditions, the Jewish community in Russia makes a significant contribution to the preservation of our national and cultural diversity, to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding in our society”.

8 September 2010





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