Article by: Zhanna Bezpyatchuk
The first joint assembly of the Jewish organizations of Ukraine began with the anthems of the two countries, Ukraine and Israel. While the country is going through hardships, Jewish organizations decided to unite their efforts to solve their own problems and help the Ukrainian state. Five Jewish unions participate in the assembly: the Union of Jewish Culture of Ukraine, the Jewish Council of Ukraine, the Jewish Forum of Ukraine, the Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations (Vaad) and the Ukrainian Union of Jewish Students.
The head of the Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Ukraine (Vaad) Josef Zissels emphasized when speaking to the delegates that while earlier the Jewish community asked for the state’s help, for a long time now everything should be different.
“What can we give to Ukraine today, how can we help our country today? We have always concentrating on supporting various countries. The Jews of Ukraine helped Israel. Other minorities lobbied the interests of other countries they represent. But today the time has come for us all to help Ukraine.”
Zissels: no anti-Semitism on Maidan
According to the data mentioned by Josef Zissels, there are about 10 thousand Jews living in Russian-occupied Crimea, another 20 thousand live in Donbas, of which five thousand had been forced to leave. Overall, the Jewish diaspora includes about 300 thousand citizens of Ukraine.
The Jewish community today organizes help for its members, forced migrants.
Besides, the Jewish leader mentioned data that evidence the lack of mass anti-Semitism in Ukraine. As such, in 2013, experts from Jewish organizations counted 13 instances of anti-Semitism in Ukraine. To compare: 1,300 such instances were registered in Germany, and 800 in France.
“We look very good compared to Europe. In 2013 our experts documented 13 anti-Semitic incidents: four attacks and nine instances of vandalism. And in Germany, there were 1,300 cases. Of course, we can say that Germans are so identified that they do not let a single incident slide, and we do. However, these 13 incidents are known to the entire world, as we send our material to various organizations: neither the OSCE nor the U.S. Department of State, which engages with the problem of anti-Semitism, not the Anti-Defamation League, were able to add anything to this list throughout the year,” noted the Jewish leader.
Besides, Josef Zissels noted that there was no anti-Semitism in Maidan, where the political nation was formed. Out of a thousand attacks there was only one anti-Semitic in nature and another which was ambiguous.
Frenkel: Russian propaganda blows the topic of anti-Semitism out of proportion to discredit Ukraine in the world
The head of the Association of Jewish Media and editor-in-chief of The Jewish Observer Mykhaylo Frenkel notes that today Russian propaganda resorts to provocations and uses anti-Semitism to discredit Ukraine in the world. And though there is a problem with everyday anti-Semitism in Ukraine, the Jewish community speaks of Russian propaganda: “We don’t see what we hear.”
“Recently we came face-to-face with the fact that the topic of anti-Semitism is being blown out of proportion by Russian propaganda within the framework of general anti-Ukrainian propaganda, because this topic is especially painful in the West, especially in the U.S. Thus discrediting Maidan and Ukraine. Russian propaganda thinks that this way it will defame Ukraine in the eyes of the global community. For example: last winter there were reports that allegedly the Mayor of Landau created some sort of Jewish security corps which counter pogroms in Ukraine. This was a fake with no verification, which unfortunately ended up in Western media, which publish it. Three days later we managed to establish that it was not the Mayor of Landau but some pro-Russian cossack from Ukraine, some Nikolay with a triple surname. He launched the fake. Unfortunately, nobody verified it and it went to the media,” said Mykhaylo Frenkel.
According to the government representative for ethnic and national policies in Ukraine Hennadiy Druzenko, the hard times now have brought the Ukrainian and Jewish people closer than ever, as Israel has gone through and is still going through similar challenges to its security and existence.