Missing Kiev Statue Touches Off Frenzy

By Jennifer Siegel

Published May 20, 2005, issue of May 20, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

His name may double as a greeting of “hello,” but a recent statue of Sholom Aleichem went missing before anyone could say goodbye.

A bronze statue of the author disappeared from a central square in Kiev several weeks ago, touching off an international frenzy — fueled by speculation on the Internet — about its whereabouts. Although witnesses saw several men remove the statue with a crane, its location has been under dispute. A Russian-American newspaper, Novoe Ruskoye Slovo, blamed “unknown vandals.” Several Web sites said the statue was hacked into pieces and sold for easy money. Sidney Gluck, president of the American-based Sholom Aleichem Memorial Foundation, decried the hole that was left behind as an undignified “spittoon and garbage dump.”

The widespread concern about the statue’s fate reflects Sholom Aleichem’s pre-eminence: More than 90 years after his death, the Ukrainian-born writer’s vivid depictions of shtetl life still serve as a nostalgic time capsule of a lost world. (His most famous character, Tevye the Milkman, recently re-emerged in a Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.”) It also indicates uneasiness about the position of the hundreds of thousands of Jews within Ukraine. Attacks against Jews have escalated in recent years, according to Nikolai Butkevich, research director of the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union. Several weeks ago, skinheads attacked a Jewish youth outside Kiev’s Brodsky synagogue, steps away from where the Sholom Aleichem statue once stood on Rognedinsky Street.

“We have serious questions about the attitudes of the new government,” said Gluck, referring to the administration of the newly elected president, Viktor Yushchenko. “We’re afraid this is a sign of increased antisemitism. There is a cloud of silence over the whole [statue] thing.”

But according to Vaad of Ukraine’s chairman, Joseph Zissels, who is a member of the executive board of the Eurasian Jewish Congress, the real story is one of simple miscommunication. No vandals or bandits took away the statue; it was simply removed for routine refurbishment, he told the Forward through a translator. The work is being done by a private contractor and paid for by the Jewish Council of Ukraine. The statue will be reinstalled in the next few weeks.

Zissels said the rumors about the statue’s disappearance gained currency, in part, because Rabbi Moshe Asman, head of Ukraine’s Lubavitch movement, did not know about the refurbishment. Asman was quoted in several news sources, including Nova Rusky Slovo, as being “outraged at the vandals.”

People tend to expect the worst, Zissels said, adding that while the situation for Jews in Ukraine is not ideal, he is hopeful that it is improving. The number of antisemitic statements by the media has decreased since Yushchenko recently denounced them, he said.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • 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.