Jews Fleeing Ukraine Ahead of Russian Take-over

odessa dead

About 20 Jews emerging from synagogue in mid-April, were handed leaflets ordering the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee or else. The three hooded men handing out the pamphlets were carrying a Russian flag and the symbol of the separatist Republic of Donetsk.

The leaflet begins “Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality” and states that all people of Jewish descent over 16 years old must report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and “register.” The leaflets claim the reason is that leaders of the Ukrainian Jewish community supported Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II.

The leaflets then described which documents Jews should provide: “ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.”

Consequences for non-compliance will result in citizenship being revoked “and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property,” it said. A registration fee of $50 was also required

The Donetsk Republic press office denied any involvement in the matter.

And yet anti-semantic activity in Ukraine continues to grow including in the port city of Odessa, where Jewish leaders have evacuation plans ready. With the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany on May 9th, leaders are considering temporarily moving Jewish residents to the countryside to avoid trouble.

Rabbi Refael Kruskal, who heads the organization Tikva, runs orphanages, schools and services for the elderly says they are prepared.

“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.”

Other community leaders are also establishing evacuation plans should the need arise.

Kira Verkhovsky of the Migdal International Center of Jewish Community Programs said, “If the situation will be worse, we are planning to move.”

And the Chabad Lubavitcher emissary Rabbi Avraham Wolf said that while the current circumstances do not require an evacuation, “We have a number of plans,” including armed guards and a situation check every half hour.

The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem said it has been “raising funds from Christians worldwide over recent weeks” in order to fly 100 Ukrainian Jews to Israel.

“The unfolding crisis in Ukraine has meant an even more uncertain future for the Jewish community there, and we have acted swiftly once again to bring needy and endangered Jews home from this troubled region,” the group’s director Jürgen Bühler said in a statement.

The Jewish Agency for Israel, which provides services to Jews wishing to move to Israel, reported last week that 777 new immigrants arrived in Israel from Ukraine since the beginning of this year, a 142% increase compared with the same time period last year. Those fleeing Odessa in particular increased three-fold, the agency noted, while another 200 immigrants have registered throughout Ukraine for flights to Israel this month.

Odessa has a Jewish community of about 30,000.

Since the unrest began burning of a synagogue, vandalizing of a Holocaust memorial and the defacing of Jewish graves has occurred. The Giymat Rosa Synagogue in Zaporizhia, located southeast of Kiev, was firebombed in late February as two Molotov cocktails were thrown into the unoccupied synagogue.

The Holocaust Memorial in Sevastopol in the Crimean Peninsula was spray painted in red with a hammer and sickle and the letters USSR, and with what appeared to be other pro-Russian graffiti. The memorial was erected in 2003 at the site where 4,200 Jews were murdered by the Nazis on July 12, 1942 and has been vandalized by neo-Nazis in the past.

In Dnepropetrovsk, swastikas were sprayed on the tomb of Dov Ber Schneerson, brother of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneerson, who headed the Chabad movement.

Ukrainian forces battled pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine as militants in Odessa vowed to retake buildings they were forced out of amid clashes that left 46 seperatists dead and another 200 detained. Ukrainian troops also pressed forward with an offensive against militants in Slavyansk, which has left four Ukrainian soldiers and more than 20 militants dead.

A fourth Ukrainian military helicopter was shot down near the pro-Russian rebel-controlled Slavyansk, but the pilots survived, the Defense Ministry said. The helicopter, an Mi-24, came under fire from a heavy machine gun, crashed into a river.

The other helicopters were brought down by surface-to-air missiles, leaving two crew members dead. The downing of the helicopters is being taken as proof that the pro-Russian militias are being armed by Russia, something the former Soviet Union denies.

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