Ukrainian Jews are slated to receive $1 million to increase security against possible upticks in anti-Semitic behavior in the wake of the country's massive political upheaval.
The money is coming from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the Jewish Week reported, and is going toward protection for places where Jews gather, as well as for the elderly and poverty-stricken.
“From the many conversations I’ve conducted this week with Jewish leaders in the Ukraine, we understood that the situation on the ground is critical,” organization founder and president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein said. “Rabbis and communal leaders feel under threat."
The Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, which runs the Orach Chaim day school in Kiev and several other institutions, has been paying $1,000 a day for round-the-clock security for nine buildings, including four school buildings, a community center, a synagogue and a religious seminary, said Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, the confederation’s president and a Ukrainian chief rabbi.
“Nobody goes alone at night, so we have three people doing escorts from the synagogue and back,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week.
Protesters stand on barricades at Independence square in Kiev on Feb. 19, 2014. (Getty Images/AFP/Louisa Gouliamaki)
The cost overall is 10 times what the community used to pay for security before deadly protests rocked Kiev in recent weeks, which is where the fellowship's donation comes in. Many Jewish institutions have simply gone dormant in the midst of the unrest.
A synagogue was firebombed with Molotov cocktails in the eastern city of Zaporizhia on Sunday night, causing minor damage, but Yuriy Sergeyev, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, said attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions aren't widespread.
He said there's no indication of “state anti-Semitism,” according to the Jerusalem Post. Anti-Semitism is against the law in Ukraine.
But casting doubt on such assertions are videos like this one, depicting a white power flag taking up residence between a Confederate battle standard and Ukrainian and Svoboda flags in a municipal building in Kiev after protesters took it over, as noted by Gawker:
Indeed the rule of law — and to what extent it will protect them — is the issue that hangs in the balance for Ukraine's Jews, Gawker added:
Now, take away street policing. Make this a state that's somewhat drunkenly weaving between stable governments, goaded on not just by native rightists but by Russian puppeteers and their sympathizers, too. In the absence of laws, and enforcers of laws, all of that cultural antipathy starbursts, and it burns the Jewish community, and every other hated group that doesn't have a champion.
“It’s still a very fluid situation,” Mark Levin, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, an American organization that advocates for Jews in the former Soviet Union, told the Jewish Week.
“The big concern, I think, is ensuring that there’s adequate security for Jewish institutions throughout the country, but particularly in the large cities. And I think that’s where much of the focus within the American Jewish community and Israel lies — that and making sure the flow of services continues.”
“The Jewish community has to stay vigil and see what’s going to be,” Rabbi Bleich told the Jewish Weekly. “What’s going to happen with this new government? Are they going to be a part of the government?”