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!
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • 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.