April 6, 2022

Exclusive: Kerestir, Hungary a Hub for Kosher Food for Ukrainian Refugees

Kerestir…Rabbi Moshe Yosef Friedlander has a long family history in the city of Kerestir going back to his grandparents. For the past several years he has turned the sleepy town where many come to pray at the gravesite of one of its legendary sages, known as Reb Shayala, as the welcome mat for tens of thousands of Jews who come from all over Europe, the USA, and Israel. Called “Reb Shayala’s Guesthouse,” Friendlander feeds and hosts the thousands who visit the city. What he was not prepared for were the busloads of Ukrainian Jewish refugees who have been arriving daily. His fully set-up kitchen suddenly became a refuge for the refugees escaping the Russian bombardments. “I am committed to taking care of them until they have a resolution as to where they will settle in the future,” Friedlander says. With homes in the US and Israel, his head and heart are with the refugees in Hungary. In fact, he was back in Kerestir last weekend planning to ship foods for Passover to Jews still stuck in the war zone. He was totally consumed with the logistics of getting the food through the warring areas. Friedlander is not sure when the war will end but he is certain that Reb Shayala Kerstirer is watching over him and the magnificent infrastructure he built. What’s next for Friedlander? The construction of a mikveh (ritual bath) and a hotel.