Some young Jews working for international organizations such as JDC, Hillel and Limmud have taken to the barricades.
ANTI-GOVERNMENT protesters wave Svoboda flags at Maidan Square in Kiev, Dec. 11, 2013 Photo: SAM SOKOL
Limmud FSU on Sunday joined the Ukrainian Jewish Committee in professing a policy of neutrality regarding the current political crisis in the Kiev.
On Friday The Jerusalem Post reported that despite calls by communal leaders for local Jews to avoid involving themselves in massive protests that have rocked the Ukrainian capital, some young Jews working for international organizations such as JDC, Hillel and Limmud have taken to the barricades.
Alexandra Oleynikova, a young Jewish activist involved in Limmud activities, told the Post that while some Jews stayed away out of fear, others had been “really active” in offering support as well as “organizing the barricades.”
On November 30, when government forces staged a massive push against the barricades, attacking and beating protesters, she said, “My friends were on the front lines of the fighting against the troops.”
“I wish to point out that the views expressed by Ms. Oleynikova are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of Limmud FSU for which she is a volunteer,” Limmud founder and chairman Chaim Chesler told the Post.
“Since the establishment of Limmud FSU [Former Soviet Union] we adhere strictly to a policy of neutrality and avoid all involvement in political affairs, whether they be local or global, including of course, in Ukraine. Limmud FSU is a cultural project the aim of which is to revive and support Jewish life among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide and all our activities and resources are devoted exclusively to this.”
The Ukrainian Jewish Committee has warned local communities that they should remain neutral in the political conflict. UJC director Eduard Dolinsky told the Post on Wednesday that his organization had sent letters to Jewish institutions throughout the country warning them that “there can be a provocation at any moment.”
Not all Jewish organizations have stayed out of the fray, however.
Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Dov Bleich, who heads the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, took part in failed roundtable negotiations between President Victor Yanukovich and opposition leaders over the weekend.
The roundtable talks represented the first direct encounter any of the three opposition leaders have had with Yanukovich in months of crisis around his policy toward Europe.
This came to a head on November 21 when his government suddenly backed off a landmark trade-and-political agreement with the European Union after years of preparation, and announced it was reviving trade relations instead with former overseer Moscow.
Since then, the capital has been roiled by sometimes harshly handled pro-Europe rallies, involving hundreds of thousands of people at the weekends, who accuse Yanukovich of turning the clock back and selling out national interests to the Kremlin.
Reuters contributed to this report.