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!
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • 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.