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March 4, 2014 5:01 pm

Ukrainian Yeshiva Students Receive Draft Notices

avatar by Gidon Ben-Zvi

Kiev's Great Choral Synagogue. Photo: Wikipedia.

Students from several of Kiev’s yeshiva schools received draft notices as part of the country’s military assemblage in response to Russia’s infiltration of the Crimean Peninsula, Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported on Tuesday.

Religious students studying at the Brodsky Synagogue Chabad were ordered by the Ukrainian army to present themselves for military duty, one of Ukraine’s Chief Rabbis, Moshe Reuven Asman, said.

Those learning at the Orech Chaim Yeshiva, located in Kiev’s neighborhood of Podil, have likewise received draft orders in recent days, Ma’ariv reported.

“[Students] had to go to the recruiting office,” said Hillel Cohen, a student at the Podil Yeshiva. “However, no general mobilization has yet been reported… If there is a war they will have to go.”

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As a result of the draft notices, Cohen said many community members are talking about the possibility of leaving Ukraine. He explained, “Some people are thinking about heading to Russia, but if the airport is closed how will they get there?”

Meir Pawlowski, a student from another yeshiva whose attendees have been called for duty by the Ukrainian armed forces, noted that several of his friends served in the country’s military before becoming religiously observant. As a result, these particular yeshiva students are more likely to be drafted, Ma’ariv said.

Pawlowski himself enlisted in 2002 and served for two years in Ukraine’s army, after which he became an openly religious Jew. Based on his military experience, Pawlowski asserted, “There is no possible way to continue being religious while serving in the Ukrainian army.”

Pawlowski sees parallels between the current situation he and his fellow Jews are experiencing in Ukraine, and the years leading up to the Holocaust. He noted, “It’s like World War II. Jews up until the last minute debated over whether to leave or not.” As such, he has no intention of being drafted.

“If they call me up, I will go to Israel,” he said.

Russia recently tightened its military grip on Ukraine’s Crimea region after a popular revolution saw pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych ousted and a new pro-Western government formed.

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