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Haaretz has published a short article reporting concerns raised by a Rabbi in Kiev about the safety of the local Jewish community in the present political upheavals.

Ukrainian Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, called on Kiev's Jews to leave the city and even the country if possible, fearing that the city's Jews will be victimized in the chaos, Israeli daily Maariv reported Friday.

"I told my congregation to leave the city center or the city all together and if possible the country too," Rabbi Azman told Maariv. "I don't want to tempt fate," he added, "but there are constant warnings concerning intentions to attack Jewish institutions."

Edward Dolinsky, head of the umbrella organization of Ukraine's Jews described the situation in Kiev as dire, telling Maariv "We contacted Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman requesting he assist us with securing the community."
What is or is not going on in the present needs to be set in the long historical context of Jewish life in Ukraine.
Jewish communities have existed in the territory of Ukraine from the time of Kievan Rus' (one of Kiev city gates was called Judaic) and developed many of the most distinctive modern Jewish theological and cultural traditions such Hasidism. While at times they flourished, at other times they faced periods of persecution and antisemitic discriminatory policies. Before World War II, a little under one-third of Ukraine's urban population consisted of Jews[7] who were the largest national minority in Ukraine.
In the period between WW I and WW II when Ukraine became part of the USSR there was a series of anti-Jewish pogroms. During WWII Ukrainian nationalist in Western Ukraine chose to cooperate with the Nazi occupiers and some of them were instrumental in facilitating the activities of the holocaust. Of course the Jewish population was decimated. There has been substantial emigration to Israel. Israel estimates the present Jewish population of Ukraine at 250,000.

The political situation began to become tense in 2012 when the right wing party Svoboda gained enough votes to win seats in the parliament. Svoboda has been listed by the World Jewish Congress as being neo-Nazi. There are other right wing nationalist groups who haven't gain standing in parliament.

The Russian government has been making claims that the movement which has toppled the government of president (former?) Yanukovych is under the control of right wing fascist organizations. While that seems to be a political exaggeration, that does seem to be a part of the political mix.

Given the history, it doesn't seem unreasonable for Jews there to have a heightened sense of anxiety about the situation. It is one thing to watch as a very complex and confused situation unfolds.  

Originally posted to Richard Lyon on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 01:12 PM PST.

Also republished by Elders of Zion.

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