Brooklyn’s Ukrainian Jewish Ex-Pats Gather to Pray for Peace
Members of Brooklyn’s Ukrainian Jewish community gathered on Sunday to express support for their families and compatriots enduring violent protests in their home country, Long Island’s Newsday reported late Sunday.
Attendees also expressed optimism over recent developments wherein Ukraine’s parliament took control of the country from President Viktor Yanukovych.
Addressing several hundred members of the Russian American Jewish Experience at the Brighton Beach Jewish Community Center, Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, chief rabbi of Kiev and Ukraine, said, “This is a people’s revolution, where thousands have been willing to sacrifice their lives for a better future.”
Rabbi Blech led the community in a prayer for peace and held a moment of silence to honor those who have died and suffered during Ukraine’s bloody three-month revolt. The rabbi said there are 350,000 to 400,000 Jews in Ukraine, out of a population of 45 million.
Ukrainian-American Esther Lamm, director of development for the Russian American Jewish Experience, an educational group, said: “I find it sad when there are these outbursts of violence anywhere in the world. People deserve to live in a safe environment and have peace and not have to be afraid to speak their feelings for fear of being beaten,” according to Newsday.
Boris Chernyy, 36, who immigrated to the U.S. at 13 with his parents, Jewish dissidents from Kiev, said, “My hopes are that there will be a new president who will head a government that will be more westernized and will be a leader who thinks about independence and capitalism and will take care of the people instead of his own pockets… that is what I hope for.”
Ross Den, 32, of Brooklyn, who arrived as a child with his political refugee parents, told Newsday that he was in Kiev in October, before the uprising. “I could see the divide between the rich and the poor and the political corruption,” he said, adding that family and friends in Kiev say they have seen “a spike in anti-Semitism.”
“When there is this kind of uprising, there is always a fear of nationalism and Nazism,” Den said, according to Newsday. “But I have hope. The people of the Ukraine are educated and modern in their thinking. They will find their way and their place with Europe.”