‘Baseless Rumors’: Ukrainian Jewish Leaders Deny Evacuation Plans

Jewish leaders in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa are dismissing an Israeli newspaper report that they have in place evacuation plans in the event of a deterioration of the security of Jews.

A community spokesman posted a statement online refuting the report in the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service reported Wednesday.

“In connection with reports on the planned evacuation of the Jewish community of Odessa: No such plans exist,” Chabad organization spokesman Berl Kapulkin posted online in a statement titled, “Rebuttal.”

A woman stands outside a synagogue on April 19, 2014 in Donetsk, Ukraine. (Image source: Getty Images/Scott Olson)
A woman stands outside a synagogue on April 19, 2014 in Donetsk, Ukraine. (Getty Images/Scott Olson)

The Jerusalem Post on Monday reported that Jewish community leaders in Odessa had said there were plans for evacuation and quoted Rabbi Refael Kruskal of the Tikva organization who said, “If it gets worse, then we’ll take them [the children] out of the city. We have plans to take them both out of the city and even to a different country if necessary, plans which we prefer not to talk about which we have in place.”

Another Jewish community spokeswoman, Tania Vorobyov of Beit Grand, which JTA described as “Odessa’s largest Jewish community center,” said Wednesday that “the reports about evacuation are baseless rumors. Jews in Odessa are worried about the violence like all other Odessans but have no special plans to leave as a community.”

While Jewish leaders have maintained that the violence gripping their city is not connected to their community, they have expressed concern that any deterioration in the already volatile environment could have a spillover effect that could impact Jews, especially given the dark history of anti-Semitism in the eastern European country.

Though Jewish leaders are denying an evacuation plan, the Jewish Agency, which provides services to Jews wishing to move to Israel, reported last week that 777 new immigrants had arrived in Israel from Ukraine since the beginning of this year, a 142 percent increase compared with the same time period last year.

The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported that 70 percent of Ukraine’s Jewish community is now considering emigrating to Israel and that many have been “flooding” the Israeli consulate to secure immigration visas in order to flee the country.