A Ukrainian-Jewish reggae singer’s story of escaping Ukraine

A Neokohn főszerkesztője


Pinhas Tsinman is a Belarusian Jew, a teacher, and last but not least, a reggae singer. He fled from Kiev to Budapest with his wife and four children via Zhytomyr and Uzhhorod. On Purim, he will be speaking and singing at EMIH’s „Rally for Peace.” In a short interview with Neokohn, Tsinman talks about his family’s adventurous and dangerous journey.

I’m at home in the world of Jewish music, but I have to admit that until a few days ago I didn’t know your music. It is very impressive even if you don’t speak Russian.

Thank you very much! I feel that you do not need to know any language to enjoy music.

You sing in Russian, although I see that there are Ukrainian subtitles under the clips.

I mostly sing in Russian, but there is also some Belarusian and some Ukrainian and Hebrew.

Ближе к цели – YouTube

You are from Belarus, can you tell us about that?

I come from Minsk. I went to Jewish school there, and that’s where I met my wife. The school is run by the local Chabad, under the leadership of Rabbi Yosef Gruzman, an excellent man. My wife and I have been married for 12 years, and, thank God, we have four children.

How long have you been involved in music?

I have always been musical, but it was during my yeshiva years that I became really interested in music. I also play guitar and flute, and I wrote music when I was young.

Did you go to yeshiva in Minsk?

No, I had already been to a yeshiva in New York, the famous Yeshiva Tiferes Menachem, run by Rabbi Avrohom Lipskier. Unfortunately, this yeshiva has since closed. Later, I also went to a yeshiva in Israel for two years in Kiryat Gat.

How did you end up in Ukraine?

For the first six years of our marriage we lived in Pinsk, in the south of Belarus. We got jobs there. By then I was performing at many community events, and in 2015 I received a call from Ukraine to perform at a Chabad event on Hanukkah. We moved to Kiev, but I often performed in Mariupol, Zhytomyr and Poltava. There are a large number of Jews living here.

When did you flee Ukraine?

The war started on Thursday, February 24. The tension was already palpable in the synagogue that morning, but we decided to stay for the time being. But on the Sabbath, we already took shelter in the synagogue, and on Sunday we left the city, by which time there was great fear that the Russians would invade.

Did you head straight for Hungary?

The journey was very strenuous, full of checkpoints and barricades. First, we went to Zhytomyr and later to Uzhhorod. From there, we arrived in Debrecen, where we were accommodated by Rabbi Shmuel Feigen and his family. We have been in Budapest for about a week.

I know it is difficult to plan, but do you think you will stay?

We are going to Israel soon, and we have assessed what our options are there.

Will you return, if possible?

That’s a very difficult question, of course. The answer is I don’t know. Once the war in Ukraine is over, it may not be safe for some time. We trust in God that we will find our place.

Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities pledges support to Ukrainian Jews

EMIH – Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities has expressed its support for the Jewish community in Ukraine.