Kiev Jews Set Up Self-Defense Unit

First Mission Comes on Anniversary of Nazi Surrender

Masked Jews preparing to mount self-defense patrols in Kiev.
Masked Jews preparing to mount self-defense patrols in Kiev.

By JTA

Published May 08, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Ukrainian Jews with combat skills formed a rapid intervention force to stop anti-Semitic attacks.

The force, which was set up in recent weeks, currently is made up of eight men who served in combat units of the Israel Defense Forces or have martial arts skills, the team’s founder, Tzvi Arieli, told JTA Thursday.

The defenders are armed with baseball bats that an American donor whose family hails from Kiev sent the team, he added. “We are trying to raise funds for bullet-proof vests which would greatly increase safety if the situation escalates,” said Arieli, a Ukraine-born former soldier of a special forces unit in the Israel Defense Forces who lives in Kiev.

Arieli said he set up the task force — which now has its own Facebook page – at the request of Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, a chief rabbi of Ukraine, following a series of anti-Semitic attacks that occurred in Kiev and beyond in the wake of a bloody revolution that erupted in November over former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s alleged corruption and perceived allegiance to Russia.

Yanukovych was ousted from power in February. The following month, Russian-backed troops seized control of the Crimean Peninsula – an area which used to belong to Ukraine and which Russia promptly annexed, claiming residents had sought Russian protection for fear of Ukrainian nationalism in the post-revolution period. Hundreds have died in clashes between different interest groups and militias.

“In talks with officials, it became clear the authorities could offer limited protection to the Jewish community so we needed to take security into our own hands,” said Arieli, who in March helped organize the medical evacuation of Ukrainians who had been wounded in fighting to Israel.

He added that Ukraine, where anti-Semitic assaults used to be rare occurrences, has seen four serious physical assaults against Orthodox Jews and two attempts to torch synagogues.

“These attacks were well-planned,” said Arieli, who blamed pro-Russian militants whom he said were trying to justify Russian aggression.

The Kremlin and some pro-Russian Ukrainians have blamed far-right Ukrainians for the attacks.

“The current reality means that even tomorrow we could find 20 people with firebombs outside the synagogue. We need to be prepared,” said Arieli.

The team is scheduled to deploy on Friday in Kiev to fend off any violence against Jewish targets during events that commemorate the May 9 surrender 69 years ago of Nazi Germany to the Russian army.


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!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • 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.