Thursday, September 22, 2016

Like Other Ukrainians, Jews are Proud of Their Country and Back Resistance to Russian Aggression, Chief Rabbi Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 22 – At the conclusion of the Yalta Jewish Strategy meeting, Jakov Dov Bleich, the chief rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine, tells the Apostrophe portal that the Jews of Ukraine are proud of what their country has achieved since the Maidan and fully support its resistance to Russian aggression.

            The rabbi says that “a very great deal” of what people in the Maidan sought has been achieved,” including not only freedom of movement but “freedom to express one’s opinion, freedom of business and the market” (

            Since the Maidan, he continues, “Ukraine has changed: it is not what it was before. Now, it must step by step move further.” Yes, corruption remains a problem, but it is less than it was. Moreover, “in parliament, there are political parties, there is freedom of the press and speech, and people can develop businesses.”

            “Ukraine has become finally Ukraine. Ukrainians as a nation have become proud that they live here, and of course, Jews are also proud” because “thanks to Putin, there are now Ukrainian Jews” and “today all Jews in Ukraine are proud that they live here,” the chief rabbi says.

            Before the Russian invasion, there were “about 20,000 Jews in the Donbass,” but many of them have gone to Israel or to other parts of Ukraine. That is not the case with Jews living in other parts of Ukraine at least now, he adds.

            The “main problem” of Ukraine now is not corruption; it is “the aggression and way which has had a negative impact on the economic possibilities of Ukraine … In general, Ukraine is suffering from war and from the complicated economic situation which is the result of the war and aggression.”

            As far as defeating Russia is concerned, the rabbis says that the problem isn’t Russia: it is Vladimir Putin. And “no one is eternal.” With his departure, many things could change. Those who think that people in the Donbass are pro-Russian are wrong: “believe me, they all want to live better in Ukraine than they can in Russia.”

            Ukraine has freedom already; Russia will continue for some time without it, the rabbi says. At the same time, he continues, he retains his connections with the chief rabbi of Moscow because “this war which was unleashed by Russia against Ukraine” is “not a Jewish war” and “does not concern the Jewish community” as such.

            The rabbi says that as a community, Ukraine’s Jews seek to “be outside of politics.” But many Ukrainian Jews are fighting against Russian aggression because “they are citizens of Ukraine. Why should it be otherwise?”

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