Citing Family’s Holocaust History, Brooklyn Rabbi Organizes Rescue of Dozens of Imperiled Afghans

Rabbi Mosher Margaretten is seen with four children he helped evacuate from Afghanistan. Photo: Tzedek Association.

October 19, 2021

A rabbi from Brooklyn, New York, has played a key role in evacuating dozens of imperiled Afghans from their home country following the sudden Taliban takeover in August, and his rescue efforts were detailed in a BBC report last week.

Rabbi Moshe Margaretten and the Tzedek Association he runs got involved after he heard the story of four children hiding from the Taliban in a Kabul apartment.

“I thought about those four kids, all younger than 18, I thought, ‘Who knows if they are still alive, I have to try to reach them,’” Rabbi Margaretten told the BBC.

“We got our people on the ground to take care of the children and an hour later they were inside the [Kabul] airport,” he said.

The children later reached the United States after a stopover in Qatar.

Rabbi Margaretten said, “Why is an Orthodox Jewish rabbi from Brooklyn helping Muslims in Afghanistan? The answer is very simple. My parents and grandparents are all Holocaust survivors. [They] were forced to run for their lives and they went through very similar pain.”

Rabbi Moshe Margaretten. Photo: Tzedek Association.

The rabbi also assisted a man known as “Afghanistan’s last Jew,” Zablon Simintov, flee the country for safety in the U.S.

To finance the endeavor, Rabbi Margaretten has fundraised within the Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Chicago, as well as online.

As news of his efforts spread, Rabbu Margaretten received an overwhelming number of requests for aid.

“People were calling me in the middle of the night, crying and saying, ‘Rabbi help me, my life is in danger,'” he recalled.

“On the one hand I’m very happy for those I’ve been able to help, but on the other it’s very sad — there’s a limit to how much I can do,” he noted.

One female Afghan social activist who was being hunted by the Taliban was able to contact the rabbi’s team from her hiding place.

“They got me and my whole family out of Afghanistan within 24 hours,” she said. “I’m very happy.”

With thousands still seeking to leave Afghanistan, Rabbi Margaretten vowed he would continue his efforts to get them out “as long as it takes.”