Betsy Gidwitx Reports

95. The Kyiv Jewish Community is a secular organization operated under the auspices of Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich. The writer met with Anatoly Shengait, its executive director, and his deputy, Marat Strakhovsky. The organzation is based in a government library that honors the ethnic diversity of Ukraine, holding collections that focus on various groups, including Jews. Mr. Shengait described KJC as a program that attempts to bring all Jewish organizations in the city and region under one roof, co-sponsoring events whenever possible. For example, they have collaborated with JDC in sponsoring intellectual presentations for Jewish elderly, with the Institute of Jewish Studies at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (NaUKMA) (Ukr: Національний університет «Києво-Могилянська академія» - НаУКМA)[154] in organizing expeditions to places of Jewish interest, and with the Jewish Agency for Israel in organizing its youth seminars. KJC also arranges exhibits by Jewish artists and/or exhibits on Jewish themes, poetry readings on Jewish themes, and comparable events. It publishes a periodic newspaper, mainly in Russian, but with Ukrainian and Yiddish sections.


Anatoly Shengait, at near left, and Marat Strakhovsky, direct the Kyiv Jewish Community, an organization that is under-going severe program contraction due to financial constraints.


Photo: the writer.


KJC also works with Jewish populations in smaller cities and towns in the region, trying to bring everyone together. They work with all groups - religious of all streams, secular, youth clubs, Jewish veterans groups, etc.


The organization no longer is able to sponsor large holiday celebrations at Purim and Chanukah in which Jews from Kyiv and surrounding communities gathered in the Ukrainian capital for festive day-long events. It simply costs too much to bring people into the city by bus, rent event spaces, organize programs, pay staff, etc. KJC had asked Jews attending these celebrations to absorb more of the costs, e.g., to pay at least 50 percent of the cost for bus transportation, but many individuals just cannot pay very much at all and KJC is receiving constantly decreasing amounts of money for subsidies from Rabbi Bleich every year.




96. Arkady Monastyrsky, a veteran Kyiv Jewish professional, directs both the Jewish Fund of Ukraine and the Jewish Forum of Ukraine.[155] The writer visited Mr. Monastyrsky in the as-yet incompletely renovated new offices shared by the two organizations, which are the former premises of the World Union of Progressive Judaism in Ukraine.[156] Whereas the move out of these quarters into newer space was a step forward for WUPJ, the move into the old WUPJ premises was a step back for Mr. Monastyrsky's organizations. He readily acknowledged that financial problems forced a move into the smaller former WUPJ office. They now have considerably less space, Mr. Monastyrsky said, in a less desirable location.


In common with many other Jewish professionals, Arkady Monastyrsky has seen a significant decline in grants awarded to his organization in recent years.


Photo: the writer.




The principal program of the Jewish Fund of Ukraine is a small Jewish community center known as Kinor. Mr. Monastyrsky enumerated a variety of Kinor programs, including a three-day seminar for directors of small museums (both Jewish and non-Jewish museums) that was held in Berlin (with support from another organization), publication of comprehensive Ukrainian-Yiddish and Yiddish-Ukrainian dictionaries (supported by a Ukrainian government grant), publication of a four-volume anthology in Russian and Yiddish of the work of Sholom Aleichem (supported by a commercial bank and two private individuals), Jewish theater and art festivals, and publication of a periodic Jewish newspaper (with support from the Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund). Kinor also organized several Holocaust memorial commemorations, but each of these generated criticism from the Tkumah group in Dnipropetrovsk and the Kyiv-based Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies,[157] acknowledged Mr. Monastyrsky. Strong rivalries exist between the various Holocaust-related organizations in Ukraine, he said; the two largest ones - Tkumah and the Ukrainian Center each claim exclusive expertise on Holocaust-related issues and events.


Kinor has 350 dues-paying members who participate in local Kinor programs, including arts and language classes that the organization sponsors. Mr. Monastyrsky applied to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany for a grant to support programs for elderly Jews, but the Joint Distribution Committee intervened with the Claims Conference to block any allocation to Kinor.[158]


The current president of the Jewish Fund and Jewish Forum of Ukraine, said Mr. Monastyrsky, is Vladislav Datochny, a building contractor who has homes in both Kyiv and Germany. Oleksandr Dubilet of PrivatBank is another very important donor. Unfor-tunately, said Mr. Monastyrsky, every wealthy Jew who identifies with the Jewish community wants his own Jewish organization; he has lost several previous donors who abandoned JFU when they formed their own groups. Mr. Monastyrsky also noted that the Joint Distribution Committee reduced its support to JFU from $40,000 to $8,000.




97. United Jewish Community of Ukraine was established as the All-Ukraine Jewish Congress in 1997 by controversial Ukrainian Jewish oligarch Vadym Rabynovych.[159] Its current name was adopted in 1999. In 2008, Ihor Kolomoisky of PrivatBank formally succeeded Mr. Rabynovych, although the latter maintains a prominent role in the organization. Iosif Akselrud, who is executive director of Hillel, also is the executive director of UJCU.[160]



Ihor Kolomoisky, one of the principals of PrivatBank, is a native of Dnipropetrovsk and maintains his Ukraine base in that city. However, he currently spends most of his time in Geneva.


Retreived September 12, 2013.


Instead of operating its own programs, UJCU supports existing institutions, focusing on Jewish education. It makes grants to a large number of Jewish day schools and also funds non-Orthodox Jewish education ventures, including 25 community Sunday schools and several independent Jewish youth groups. It also is a major donor to the Hillel student organization.


Mr. Kolomoisky and Mr. Rabynovych together provide almost the entire $3 million budget of UJCU, said Mr. Akselrud. However, he noted, Mr. Kolomoisky has recently reduced his individual support, forcing UJUC to trim its allocations in several areas.



98. Preoccupied with the forthcoming Jewish Agency meetings in Kyiv and his opposition to them, Mr. Zissels was not prepared to speak about the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress,[161] an organization that he serves as President and Chairman of its General Council (Ukraine). (His responsibilities are roughly equivalent to those of an executive director in the United States.) The President of EAJC is Vadym Shulman, a native of Krivoi Rog. In general, the organization has had a much lower profile since 2011 when Mr. Shulman replaced Aleksandr Mashkevich of Kazakhstan as President.


Vadym Shulman, an oligarch with major interests in telecommunications and other industries, was the principal donor in the construction of the Chabad synagogue in Krivoi Rog (pages 103-104). He also has supported other Jewish organizations in Ukraine and Israel.


Photo: Retrieved September 12, 2013.




99. The Ukrainian Jewish Committee was established by Oleksandr Feldman, a wealthy businessman from Kharkiv[162] and a member of the Ukrainian Rada (parliament), in 2008. Mr. Feldman, who previously was associated with the Jewish Fund of Ukraine, modeled the new organization on the American Jewish Committee, he said. The writer met with Mr. Feldman and Eduard Dolinsky, the director-general of the organization, as a member of a small Jewish Agency delegation.


Oleksandr Feldman, a member of the Rada from Kharkiv, is highly visible in Ukrainian Jewish life.


Photo: Retrieved September 16, 2013.



A major priority of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee since its inception has been monitoring antisemitism. The Svoboda political party that gained seats in the Rada during recent elections blames Jews for "everything" (все), said Mr. Feldman, including the Holodmor (famine of 1932-33) and the enormous influence in the country wielded by Russians (Москалины). If new elections were held today, Mr. Feldman stated, Svoboda would receive 45 percent of votes cast in Kyiv, 15 to 20 percent of votes cast in Mr. Feldman's home base of Kharkiv, and "120 percent" of votes cast in western Ukraine, the area of strongest Ukrainian nationalism. Mr. Feldman criticized the Ambassador of Israel for meeting with Svoboda officials, claiming that such meetings provide Svoboda with legitimacy and credibility.[163]


[154] See pages 111-112.

[155] Technically, the Jewish Fund of Ukraine solicits and distributes grant money, and the Jewish Forum of Ukraine operates programs, but this distinction often seems blurred and does not always conform to Mr. Monastyrsky's own description of events.

[156] See pages 127-129.

[157] See pages 61-64 for information about Tkumah. The mission of the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies is similar to that of Tkumah, but its activities are more limited; see the writer's Observations on Jewish Community Life in Ukraine- Report of a Visit March 21-April 8, 2011, pages 106-107.

[158] See footnote 149, page 135.

[159] Mr. Rabynovych is persona non grata in several Western countries.

[160] See pages 113-114 for information about Hillel and Mr. Akselrud.

[161] See pages 134-135.

[162] See pages 95-96 for information on Mr. Feldman's role in the Jewish community of Kharkiv.

[163] Svoboda has sought meetings with diplomats of several countries, attempting to persuade them that the Party is not antisemitic and is a constructive political force in the country.


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