Rabbi Spero: Jews in Ukraine Worried, Should Get Out

Tuesday, 06 May 2014 07:13 PM

By Joe Battaglia

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Ukrainian Jews should be quite worried for their safety amid escalating violence in the region and the time has come for them to seek asylum in Israel, according to one author and religious leader.

Rabbi Aryeh Spero, author of the book "Push Back: Reclaiming Our American Judeo-Christian Ethos," told J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on NewsmaxTV that given Ukraine's history of anti-Semitism and continued hostilities in Odessa, his message to Jews in the region is "it's time for them to go."

"You have tempers at a fever pitch," Spero said. "We had the mayor in one of the Ukrainian cities that was shot at, thankfully he's okay now. He's living. He happened to have been Jewish too. All of these things are coming to a confluence. You've got raging tempers and it deals with nationalism and identity and culture and the logical conclusion of what we've seen in the last three, four weeks will eventuate in even more blood and violence."

Spero pointed to the compliance of Ukrainians after the Nazi invasion in the round up of Jews in Lviv, Lutsk and Zhytomyr for the Babi Yar massacre as an example of deep-rooted anti-Semitism he believes remains in the country and still threatens Jews almost seven decades later.

"Odessa is part of the Ukraine and, historically, the Ukraine was the most anti-Semitic region in all of Europe," Spero said. "Much of the Holocaust was made possible because of the eager complicity of the Ukrainian population against the Jewish population. Now, the Jews had been in the Ukraine for centuries, hundreds of years, predating some of the people that called themselves Ukrainians. So there is a history to the bloodcurdling anti-Semitism.

"There have been pogroms. Pogroms not on a small scale, where 100,000 Jews were killed or 150,000 Jews were killed during the time of Khmelnytsky. What happens when you have these eruptions that you're having not only in Ukraine, between Russia and the Ukrainians, anti-Semitism is given an open door and that's why the Jewish population is right in being very worried and they should get out of the Ukraine."

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Although Spero said that he has not heard any pronouncements from Tel Aviv or from Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, he believes the logical place for Ukrainian Jews to flee is to Israel.

"There's no question in my mind that under the radar, there are invitations being offered to leaders in the Ukrainian Jewish community," Spero said. "Invitations from Israeli leaders to get their people, if they feel it's necessary, out of Odessa, out of the Ukraine, and that Israel will facilitate their arrival and will make sure that when they come that they're not orphaned, that they'll have a place to live, they'll have opportunity.

"Now I don't think Mr. [Vladimir] Putin per se is anti-Semitic. He's actually quite different than the historical leader in Russia, be it at the time of the tsars or in the time of the communists when they were anti-Jewish. Putin does not seem to be so, but there are many native Russians that are, and certainly Ukrainians, and it's time for the Jewish community to uproot themselves. It's hard, they have homes there, businesses, family, it's their culture, but the destiny for them is Israel."

Spero added that he does not expect Putin to allow military intervention by Israel to evacuate threatened Jews from the region.

"To do so would be an acknowledgement on his part that the situation is out of control," Spero said. "Mr. Putin does not want to acknowledge that he's created chaos. What he would do instead is he would say things will be under control and perhaps he would assure the safety of the Jewish community."

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