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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid