Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Moscow Chief Rabbi Frets Over Ukraine Honor for Anti-Semites

(JTA) — The chief rabbi of Moscow condemned the honoring in Ukraine of nationalists whose troops massacred Jews.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, who is also the president of the European Conference of Rabbis, spoke of his “concern” over the trend in an interview Tuesday with JTA during a gathering of the standing committee of the Conference in Vienna.

Goldschmidt was referring to a minute of silence on May 25 in memory of Symon Petliura, a 1920s statesman whom a Russian Jew killed 90 years ago because the killer blamed Petliura for mass murders of Jews committed in the years 1917-1921 by militias under Petliura’s command.

A French court acquitted the killer in 1927, in what many interpreted as confirmation of Petliura’s culpability for pogroms that claimed the lives of 50,000 Jews. Earlier this week, a government official said Kiev would name streets after Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych — Ukrainian nationalists who collaborated with Nazi Germany and whose troops also killed Jews.

“Russian Jews and Ukrainian Jews share our concern by this celebration of the memory of known anti-Semites and collaborators,” said Goldschmidt. But he noted that Ukraine also has a Ukrainian prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman. “We are counting on Ukrainian Jews to stop the revisionist commemoration of the Holocaust,” Goldschmidt said.

In Ukraine, celebrations of controversial figures like Petliura have become more widespread since 2014, when a revolution spearheaded by nationalists swept from power former president Viktor Yanukovych, who was accused of being a corrupt Kremlin stooge. They are held in high esteem for their opposition to Russia.

Ukrainian Jewish leaders are split on this issue, with the Ukrainian Jewish Committee condemning it, whereas the Vaad Jewish association calling the preoccupation a distraction from working on a harmonious future in an independent multicultural Ukraine.

At the meeting in Vienna, 40 members of the standing committee of the Conference of European Rabbis discussed threats facing the continent’s Jewish communities, including the targeting of Jews over Israel by Islamists and the rising far right.

Last month, a politician from Austria’s far Right Freedom Party, which the local Jewish community has shunned for what the community called neo-Nazi tendencies, lost the second round of the presidential election by less than a percent of the vote.

“It’s a definite sign of the difficult times and the fear of many Austrians of Islamic radicalism,” Goldschmidt said about the nationalist party’s popularity. He added this shift to the right was also occurring among some Jewish voters. The key to solving both the Islamic threat and the “dangerous backlash” it is producing, Goldschmidt said, was education and dialogue.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.