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May 5, 2014 9:32 am

Odessa Jews Prepare for Emergency Evacuation if Local Violence Worsens

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IFCJ's Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein with Jewish students in Ukraine. Photo: IFCJ/Eva Geller.

JNS.orgOdessa Jewish community leaders said Sunday that Jews in the city are preparing to evacuate if violence worsens in the western Ukrainian city. In the past few days, violent clashes between pro-Russian and nationalist forces resulted in more than 40 deaths, according to reports.

About 30,000 Jews live in Odessa. Representatives of the Ukrainian Jewish community insisted that the violence is not specifically targeting Jews. But Rabbi Refael Kruskal, who heads the Odessa-based Jewish philanthropic organization Tikva, said there were several Jews wounded in the clashes.

“Over the weekend we closed the [Great Choral] Synagogue [in Odessa]. We took all the students out of the center of the city where the violence was, because we were worried it was going to spread. We sent a text message to everybody in the community on WhatsApp that they should stay at home over the weekend,” Kruskal told the Jerusalem Post.

“If it gets worse, then we’ll take them out of the city. We have plans to take them both out of the city and even to a different country if necessary, plans which we prefer not to talk about which we have in place,” he added.

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Kruskal is also wary that next weekend, which marks the anniversary of Soviet Russia’s victory over Germany in the Second World War, could get very violent. He is considering setting up a camp away from the city where 600 Jews could stay while the fighting transpires.

Other Odessa Jewish organizations also have evacuations plans in place, including the Migdal International Center of Jewish Community Programs. The local Jewish community and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews have 70 fueled buses prepared and waiting for the call to evacuate when needed, said local Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Rabbi Avraham Wolf.

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