Update on current events in Kiev, Ukraine

Published on February 25, 2014 by JCRC

The following letter was sent to the JCRC Council and committees earlier today, February 25:

Dear Friends,

Along with the rest of the world, the Jewish community of Greater Boston has been anxiously monitoring the remarkable and frightening events in Ukraine over the last few weeks. For more than twenty years, our community has been in partnership with the Jewish community in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, helping to rebuild Jewish life after the fall of the Soviet Union. We join our partners in Dnepropetrovsk in mourning the tragic deaths in Kiev last week and in welcoming the cessation of violence in the capital. 

For JCRC, our concern was heightened because this past week a group of teens from Boston and Haifa were in Ukraine to participate in our Havayah Fellowship for Global Jewish Leaders, bringing together student leaders from Boston, Haifa, and Dnepropetrovsk for a week of service learning.  While we were relieved that Dnepropetrovsk remained calm throughout the events, we are grateful to our Ukrainian partners for ensuring that our children, who are now back in Boston, were never in the slightest danger. To ensure their absolute safety, we rerouted their flight home today through Vienna rather than go through the Kiev airport.

With events developing rapidly, it is still difficult to predict the future for Ukraine. Now-former President Victor Yanukovich clearly underestimated the backlash, even among his supporters, against the deadly violence he turned against his own citizens. Ukrainians are divided about the future of their country, but they are united, at least for now, in their rejection of violence and repression. 

It is important to stress that throughout the crisis, our partners at the National Council for Soviet Jewry in Washington consulted with numerous Jewish community leaders and concluded that “the Ukrainian Jewish community is not being targeted.” Jews in Ukraine, as full citizens of the country, are deeply engaged in conversations about its future. However, it would be naïve to deny that anti-Semitic incidents continue to occur in various parts of the country; and that elements of the nationalist Ukrainian movements, including the Svoboda party, indulge in anti-Semitic rhetoric. Ukrainian Jews clearly need the ongoing support of the global Jewish community. 

The current situation remains fluid. Jewish leaders in Ukraine, the United States, and Europe are actively monitoring events and advocating, as we do, for an end to violence, an orderly transition of authority, and the unwavering rejection of all ethnic and religious hatred. In this context it is notable that the mood in Independence Square—the Maidan—over the weekend was not one of jubilation or looting but of reflection upon the loss of life. There is a sober effort under way by municipal workers and protesters alike to begin the difficult process of cleaning Kiev’s central public space.

Given the instability in Ukraine and the U.S. State Department’s recommendation to suspend non-essential travel to Ukraine, we are postponing our Next Generation Service Mission to Dnepropetrovsk, which was scheduled for this April. Pending an orderly transfer of power and a return to tranquility throughout the country, we will reschedule the trip for the fall. We remain committed to our partners in Dnepropetrovsk and look forward to resuming our face-to-face visits with them as soon as we, along with the relevant authorities, determine that travel is safe.

Meanwhile, our international Jewish partners continue to work on the ground in Ukraine.  The Jewish Agency has pledged aid to Jewish Communities for emergency assistance, and the JDC continues to provide help to homebound Jews throughout Ukraine.

In reaction to the events of February 18, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki of Dnepropetrovsk released a statement (English version) that included the following words:

We mourn each victim. We pray for them and their families. The death of every human being is the greatest tragedy and an irreparable loss.

The Jewish Community of Dnepropetrovsk appeals to all its members and all Jews in Ukraine and the world to pray for an end to violence in Ukraine….

Dnepropetrovsk, our native Dnieper, has been through all the years of Ukraine's independence a model of mutual respect and understanding among its many political, ethnic, religious, and social groups. We urge all these parties to preserve peace and tranquility in our region. We call on their leaders as well as representatives of the scientific, cultural, and business elite to unite to achieve this goal! So help us G-d!

We echo this call and urge the international community, especially the EU, the US, and Russia to work together to stabilize the Ukrainian economy and to ensure that Ukrainians will determine their own future, ideally with strong ethnic, economic, and cultural ties with both Europe and Russia. We also call upon the global Jewish community to stand with Ukraine’s Jewish community and with all Ukrainians of good will as they struggle to establish a society based on democracy, tolerance, and respect for religious and ethnic minorities.

Thank you,

Ann Levin Signature  Jeremy Burton signature
Ann Levin, Chair,
Dnepropetrovsk Kehillah Project
Jeremy Burton
Executive Director