Betsy Gidwitx Reports



As noted previously, the Masorti movement intends to offer an optional Jewish studies section in an existing high-quality public school beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. The particular school has a substantial Jewish enrollment and is well-located in central Kyiv.




Welfare Activities



73. The writer did not visit the JDC hesed, which is operating at reduced capacity due to severe budgetary constraints and problems with the hesed building itself. According to Amir Ben-Tzvi, the new JDC director in Kyiv, the condition of the structure is so dreadful that it cannot be renovated. Additionally, said Mr. Ben-Tzvi, the location of the hesed – on a small hill and some distance from public transportation lines - suggests that renovation is ill-conceived anyway.[104]



74. The Home for Assisted Living sponsored by Rabbi Yaakov Bleich currently accommodates 27 elderly Jewish men and women on the second and third floors of a six-story building intended to house 85 when fully occupied. Nine apartments on the second and third floors remain empty, said Manager Victor Popov, but three of them were scheduled to receive new residents after Pesach. The fourth and fifth floors would not be opened to additional senior residents until the financial condition of the enterprise improves substantially. The economic model for the structure is based on an income-producing trust generated by funds from the sale of residents’ previous private apartments


In an attempt to boost income, the home is now renting apartments on the third and fourth floors to several families, including a rabbinic family of 10 individuals. However, said Mr. Popov, the financial situation remains dire, mainly due to inflation. The cost of almost all utilities has risen enormously, he noted. He has had to fire several staff, and salaries are being paid at least one month late to those employees who remain.


Various communal facilities are located on the ground floor of the building, including a kitchen and dining room, synagogue/social hall, and medical offices. A new hair dressing salon has been added, and some repairs have been made to the exterior of the building.

The Kyiv Jewish Home for Assisted Living is located in a pleasant residential area near markets and public transportation.



Photo: Rabbi Bleich’s office.







Ukrainian Jewish Organizations



75. The Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine, better known as the Ukrainian Vaad, is chaired by Iosif Zissels, a longtime Jewish community observer and leader in Ukraine. The Vaad works in four main areas: Jewish property preservation and restoration, as well as archival research; interethnic tolerance; representation of Ukrainian Jewry in various international forums; and operation of Jewish community programs in small Jewish population centers, focusing on summer camps for adolescents. The Vaad has sponsored heritage expeditions to places of Jewish interest in Ukraine, and Mr. Zissels himself is regarded as a capable analyst of Ukrainian Jewry.


Mr. Zissels stated that the Vaad currently is working on as many as 100 different projects in its areas of interest. These include research, interfaith activities, strengthening Jewish studies in Ukrainian universities (especially in Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, a prestigious Kyiv university), development of small Jewish museums in various parts of Ukraine, strengthening Jewish identity, preserving the Jewish cultural heritage through restoration of old synagogues, monitoring local antisemitism (see below), and assisting the smaller and much poorer Jewish population in neighboring Moldova to undertake similar measures in their country.


Fulfilling all of these tasks is very difficult, observed Mr. Zissels, in the current situation of economic crisis in Ukraine. The country is recovering very slowly, he continued, and funds simply do not exist, even for formally approved projects, such as development of a state Jewish museum in Lviv.


The Vaad will continue to operate its summer camp, Shorashim, in the Carpathian Mountains in 2011. About 120 children and adolescents will attend a single two-week session. The Vaad receives no subsidy from JAFI for this venture, noted Mr. Zissels.


Mr. Zissels observed that about 800 synagogue buildings exist in Ukraine, 65 of which are used by Jewish communities. Many others, he continued, are used by government authorities for other purposes, particularly sports halls.[105] Recovery of these facilities for Jewish communal use would be easier, Mr. Zissels commented, if powerful rabbis in various locales would be more generous in approving their distribution to other Jewish groups ready to use them, instead of attempting to prevent such groups from acquiring any property of their own. It often happens, explained Mr. Zissels, that a chief rabbi who is unable to use a building approved for restitution blocks other Jewish groups from acquiring the structure and using it for activities that he cannot control.



Iosif Zissels, right, deals with complex political issues in his role as director of the Ukrainian Vaad.



Photo: the writer.



About 2,000 Jewish cemeteries remain in Ukraine, Mr. Zissels stated, 260 of them in Transcarpathia alone. It is extremely expensive to maintain them, he continued. Foreign donors who used to contribute to the restoration and maintenance of Jewish cemeteries, continued Mr. Zissels, now seem “obsessed” with contributing to the efforts of Father Patrick Desbois, who publicizes killing grounds, but does little to preserve them.


The writer asked Mr. Zissels, who has developed several demographic analyses of the Ukrainian Jewish population, about the number of Jews in Ukraine. Mr. Zissels responded that the probable number is 105,000, 85 percent of whom will acknowledge their Jewish heritage. About 25 percent of all Jews in Ukraine, he continued, live in Kyiv. Approximately 95 percent of Jewish men and 90 percent of Jewish women inter-marry, Mr. Zissels declared. About 300,000 people in Ukraine are eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Israeli Law of Return, he stated.



76. Vyecheslav Likachev is employed by the Vaad as a specialist on antisemitism in Ukraine. Mr. Likachev stated that the current number of violent antisemitic acts is low. Further, he stated, the amount of antisemitism in print also is low; anti-Jewish bigotry in the print media, said Mr. Likachev, tends to be found in small-circulation rightwing journals. The amount of antisemitism in media would increase substantially, Mr. Likachev added, if Moslems paid for it as had been the case with the many bigoted publications of MAUP ((Міжрегіональна Академія управління персоналом or Interregional Academy of Personnel Management) between 2002 and 2007.[106] In the mainstream press, observed Mr Likachev, antisemitic commentary may appear in such newspapers as Ukrainskaya pravda in articles about the business affairs of certain Ukrainian Jewish oligarchs, Ihor Kolomoisky in particular.


[104] See pages 123-124 for a report of an interview with Mr. Ben-Tzvi.

[105] The large halls and high ceilings of many synagogues spurred conversions of these structures into basketball courts or other sports premises.

[106] It was widely reported that MAUP received funding from several Middle Eastern governments during this period.

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