News / Europe

Crisis Puts Pressure on Ukraine's Jews

Crisis Puts Pressure on Ukraine's Jewsi
X
Al Pessin
June 06, 2014 8:09 PM
The unrest in Ukraine in recent months has put the country’s Jewish community under new pressures, with a surge of anti-Semitic graffiti and at least one attack on a synagogue. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from Odessa, one of the main centers of Jewish life in the country.
Al Pessin
The unrest in Ukraine in recent months has put the country’s Jewish community under new pressures, with a surge of anti-Semitic graffiti and at least one attack on a synagogue. Odessa is one of the main centers of Jewish life in the country.

On a typical weekday, some of Odessa’s Jews gather for morning prayers as they have for generations.  Ukraine is home to 70,000 practicing Jews, the fourth largest community in Europe. Some 400,000 Ukrainians have Jewish roots.  Normally, the Jews participate in business, politics and other aspects of life without significant notice.

But at times of tension like Ukraine has experienced in recent months, anti-Semitic feelings come out, like this graffiti.  It reads “Death to Jews.”  It’s at the site of the fire on May 2nd in Odessa, in which dozens of pro-Russian demonstrators were killed.  

But Odessa’s Chief Rabbi, Abraham Wolff, says the Jewish community is divided on the Russia-Ukraine issue, just like the broader community.

“I think that the Jewish question has really no role in this war.  Many people think that there is a Jewish question because they are constantly trying to involve Jews on the grounds of our nationhood.  But this is absolutely not true," said Wolff.

Still, Rabbi Wolff was involved in painting over some anti-Semitic graffiti recently, along with the regional leader of the new Right Sector political party, who said his group had nothing to do with it.

And the rabbi admits to having an exit plan for Odessa’s Jews, although he says he doesn’t expect to have to use it.

“There are dangers, but they’re not imminent.  And I don’t think they will become real.  Naturally, we have some problems - anti-Semitism, fascism - like in every country," he said.

Anti-Semitism is deeply rooted in some parts of Ukraine.  There were anti-Jewish pogroms in the early 20th century, and this ravine in Kyiv was the scene of one of the worst Nazi massacres of World War II.  More than 30,000 Jews were lined up, shot and buried at Babi Yar.  Today, it draws few visitors, and children use the ravine as a shortcut on their way home from school.

At the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, Professor Volodymyr Paniotto says 20 years of research indicates anti-Semitism spiked about six years ago.  But he says non-Jewish Ukrainians don’t have significantly different views on Jews than on most other ethnic groups.

“We consider that mainly it’s connected with the worsening of the situation.  The level of poverty was increasing. And when the situation became worse, people tried to find some enemy," said Paniotto.

Paniotto says the current crisis has also made some people look for scapegoats, but he does not think that represents a long term change for the Jews of Ukraine.

You May Like

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid