Ukrainian Jews Look to Israel for Repatriation

Image: Ukrainian Jews Look to Israel for Repatriation A Jewish man attends morning prayer at a synagogue in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine on April 20.

Monday, 21 Apr 2014 09:09 AM

By Courtney Coren

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Ukrainian Jews are looking to Israel for repatriation after a leaflet was circulated in the Eastern European country saying that Jews over age 16 were required to register with state officials.

While the leaflet, similar to what was distributed in Nazi Germany, has been deemed fake, concerns of a growing anti-Semitism remain, the Daily Express reported.

"It is hard to talk about numbers but I see that there are more people who come asking how to apply for repatriation," said Alexander Ivanchecko of Sohnut, a group that helps Jews who want to emigrate to Israel, according to the Daily Express.

"I cannot say for sure that they will make a decision to leave, but I do see a rise in the level of interest," he added.

Following a Passover service at a Donetsk synagogue last Wednesday, the leaflets were handed out by armed men in masks apparently on behalf of pro-Russian groups.

However, Denis Pushilin, the pro-Russian separatist leader of Donetsk, whose name was on the leaflet, denies that his organization is involved with the leaflets, which has since lead many to doubt their authenticity.

The chief rabbi in Donetsk, Pinchas Vishedski, said that he now believes the leaflets were a "crude provocation," but asked that "those behind this not . . . make us tools in this game."

Paul Anticoni, chief executive of the World Jewish Relief, based in London, said that the leaflet incident had stoked fears that there might be a surge of anti-Semitism, when previously most incidents were seen as "isolated."

"The Donetsk incident has changed some opinions," Anticoni said. "A rabbi told me he dismissed it as the work of a couple of chancers trying to rock the boat and stir up ethnic discontent."

"But it is a reflection that there are people in Ukraine who don't like Jews, or Poles or Moldovans. It's a country where tolerance of ethnic minorities isn't particularly good," he said.

Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust, which helps protect Jews living in England said that "the anti-Semitism so far has been isolated," but he warns against viewing the leaflet incident as a mere "hoax," adding that "it might be more accurate to say they were 'unofficial.'"

"They were handed out by men in uniform with assault rifles, so it's not exactly a harmless prank," he added.

According to Jewish Agency figures, 221 Jews immigrated from Ukraine to Israel in the first quarter of 2013 and 375 immigrated during the same time period this year.

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