Elchanan Poupko
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My letter to Evan Gershkovich in a Moscow prison

To the detained WSJ reporter: This Passover, as Jewish families celebrate freedom, they will be thinking of you and how your freedom has been stolen
A picture taken on July 24, 2021 shows journalist Evan Gershkovich. - A US reporter for The Wall Street Journal newspaper has been detained in Russia for espionage, Russian news agencies reported Thursday, citing the FSB security services. "The FSB halted the illegal activities of US citizen Evan Gershkovich... a correspondent of the Moscow bureau of the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal, accredited with the Russian foreign ministry," the FSB was quoted as saying. He is "suspected of spying in the interests of the American government" and of collecting information "on an enterprise of the Russian military-industrial complex," agencies reported. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)
A picture taken on July 24, 2021 shows journalist Evan Gershkovich. (Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)

Dear Evan,

When I think of you sitting in Moscow’s most feared prison, I think of my great-grandfather Rabbi Eliezer Poupko, the chief rabbi of Velizh, who narrowly escaped imprisonment in Siberia. I think of my great-great-grandfather, the chief rabbi of Saratov, Rabbi Y.M. Sapir, who also narrowly escaped the prison where he would go merely for holding dear onto his Jewish faith.

This year, as Jewish families sit around the Passover seder table, they will be thinking of you and the freedom you deserve. They will be thinking of God taking us out of slavery to freedom and how that freedom is being robbed from you right now.

We will be thinking about you and the countless innocent Jews who sat behind bars, contemplating the meaning of freedom and Passover at a time when they don’t enjoy that same freedom.

From Nathan Sharansky to so many others, two thoughts gave them hope and meaning while celebrating Passover behind bars: one was the thought of what can never be taken away from us. No matter how much we are in prison, tortured, and robbed of the freedom that we deserve, the dignity and people would be bestowed on us at the time of the Exodus and before can never be taken away from us.

The second thought they had was that of hope. You will be free. Even in the most challenging situations, Jews proclaimed: “Next year in Jerusalem.” We knew things would get better no matter what we were going through. They will for you as well.

I know we have never met, but I love you like a brother. I hope you get through these challenging times with as much as possible. Know that we are all thinking of you and doing our best on your behalf.

Next year in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Elchanan Poupko
New York

If you would like to write Evan a letter, please send it to, and his friends will translate it into Russian as required by Russian law and have it sent to him. (credit for this project: Pjotr Sauer)

About the Author
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko is a New England based eleventh-generation rabbi, teacher, and author. He has written Sacred Days on the Jewish Holidays, Poupko on the Parsha, and hundreds of articles published in five languages. He is the president of EITAN--The American Israeli Jewish Network.
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