By Tom Kingsbury | Head of Politics
In the midst of Afghans fleeing the country after the August 15 Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Rabbi Moshe Margaretten of New York began to help people escape.
Margaretten is the founder of the Tzedek (Hebrew for ‘Justice’) Association, a humanitarian organisation that says it has “been privileged to play a key role in rescuing many people from Kabul, Afghanistan since August 2021 – especially women and children.”
It started when Zablon Simintov, a carpet trader known as the last Jew in Afghanistan, contacted Margaretten asking for help leaving the country. Along with a number of others, Margaretten was able to help Simintov escape, and from there he began to learn more about the situation in Afghanistan, and became motivated to help other people escape.
Part of this motivation came from values he learned from his family – he told the New York Post: “My grandparents from all sides are Holocaust survivors. They all escaped the Nazis. We all went through the kind of pain these people are going through and we have to do whatever we can.”
Margaretten began to fundraise in Brooklyn and Chicago from within the Jewish community to help more people escape. His efforts helped members of the Afghan national women’s football team escape, as well as an Afghan prosecutor and her family.
One case that drew particular media attention was his role in reuniting four children with their mother.
Margaretten had heard of four children in Kabul who were hiding in an apartment trying to avoid the Taliban. Their mother had fled the country a few years prior after her husband had disappeared, and the children had been staying with relatives.
“I thought about those four kids, all younger than 18, I thought ‘ who knows if they are still alive, I have to try and reach them’,” he told the BBC.
He contacted members of Tzedek in the region and got them to help the children get to the airport. Within a few hours, they were being flown to Qatar, and then Albany, New York.
The mother and her children have now been reunited. Through an interpreter at the Albany airport, she said: “We’re so happy, we’re like floating in the sky”.
Margaretten and Tzedek are still working to help Afghans flee the country. Margaretten said he would continue his work “as long as it takes”.
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