Ukraine's Unfinished Revolution Sparks Hope for Jews — Not Fear

Young Generation Backs Protests for European Future

Song of Hope: Ukrainian teenagers sing the country’s national anthem in Kiev’s Independence Square.
getty images
Song of Hope: Ukrainian teenagers sing the country’s national anthem in Kiev’s Independence Square.

By Katherine Jacobsen

Published February 27, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A loudspeaker blares protest calls and a steady crowd buzzes in the background as a young Ukrainian Jewish girl talks into the camera, live from Kiev’s Independence Square.

“I want to let you know that lots of people who study Hebrew together with me are going to Euromaidan after classes every single day,” she said, referring to the protest movement that camped out for months on the square prior to its success in ousting the country’s president and his government on February 22. “My friends, my coworkers from the Jewish Channel go to the Maidan too… Here, at Euromaidan, it doesn’t matter which nationality you are.”

The unnamed girl’s message, which went viral on YouTube among Ukrainians during their recent struggle, was clear: Rabid nationalists were not driving Ukraine’s anti-government protests. Rather, the protests began as a united effort on behalf of all Ukrainians to change the course of their country — to make it a better place for all of its citizens.

But that was a message decidedly at odds with the one being publicized in various Jewish and Israeli media outlets at the time.

On February 22, the Israeli news outlet Maariv reported that Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, one of the country’s several chief rabbis, was calling on Kiev’s Jews to flee.

“I told my congregation to leave the city center or the city altogether and if possible the country too,” Rabbi Azman was quoted as saying. “I don’t want to tempt fate,” he added, “but there are constant warnings concerning intentions to attack Jewish institutions.”

According to Maariv, Azman, who is affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, had closed the Jewish community’s schools but was still holding three daily prayers at his synagogue, just a mile away from the Maidan.

The same article cited Edward Dolinsky, head of the umbrella organization of Ukraine’s Jews, the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, describing the situation in Kiev as dire. “We contacted [Israeli] Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman requesting he assist us with securing the community,” he told the news outlet.

The reported firebombing of a synagogue 250 miles southeast of Kiev one day after Maariv’s report appeared to reinforce the disturbing message.

But in a February 25 interview with the Forward, Azman denied making the sweeping statement that Maariv attributed to him. His comments, he said, were taken out of context. The situation is dangerous for everyone, he explained.

Conditions in the country have remained unstable since February 21, when the protesters at the Euromaidan got their most fervent wish and the country’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, was impeached and fled the city. The country remains deeply divided between those who lean, as Yanukovych did, towards neighboring Russia and want the country to stay within its orbit and those pushing to link the country to the West.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.