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March 2, 2022 11:18 am
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As Russian Attack Intensifies, Ukrainian President Zelensky Issues Plea to Jews Around the World: ‘Cry Out Against the Killing’

avatar by Ben Cohen

A Ukrainian soldier stands guard in Independence Square, downtown Kyiv. Photo: Reuters/Umit Bektas

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday issued an impassioned plea in the Hebrew language for Jewish communities around the world to express solidarity with his embattled country, as the Russian military invasion entered its seventh day.

In a message posted in Hebrew on his channel on the Telegram platform, Zelensky rounded on the Russian missile strike on Tuesday that struck the memorial to the Sept. 1941 massacre at Babi Yar, just outside Kyiv, where the Nazis murdered more than 30,000 Jews.

“Babi Yar is a special place in Kyiv. A special place in Europe. A place of prayers,” Zelensky wrote. “A memorial site for thousands and hundreds of thousands of Jews who were murdered by the Nazis … Why turn such a place into a target for a missile attack?”

Zelensky accused Russia of “killing the victims of the Holocaust again” by targeting Babi Yar. He pointed out that during Soviet times, when focusing upon the Jewish identity of Holocaust victims was officially frowned upon, the site had been home to a sports center and a park. “But why was it bombed?” he went on. “This action is beyond human understanding.”

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The Ukrainian leader emphasized that on the first day of the Russian onslaught, the historic city of Uman — site of the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the revered founder of the Breslover Hasidim — was heavily shelled.

“This is where hundreds of thousands of Jews come every year to pray,” Zelensky said.

The president said he was now turning “to all the Jews of the world — do you not see what is happening here? That is why it is important that millions of Jews around the world do not remain silent, because Nazism was born in silence. Cry out against the killing of civilians!”

Meanwhile, Russian claims that only military targets were being attacked by its forces were angrily countered by Zelensky. “Last night and tonight they continued to hit our cities, again in residential areas. Mariupol, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Zhytomyr and other cities and towns of Ukraine,” he said.

If the Russians were willing to target Babi Yar, “what’s next?” Zelensky asked.

“Whatever they think of, damn them, for God is with us!” he ended.

Separately, Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi last night pledged to remain in the country despite worsening conditions on the ground.

Speaking from the historic Brodsky Synagogue in Kyiv on Tuesday night, Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman described himself as a “rabbi of Ukraine” and said he was “proud to be on the side of light, not of those who kill.”

Azman accused Russia of using Grad missiles and other weaponry that wreaks enormous suffering when deployed in urban areas, contrasting the Russian military’s approach with that of Israel.

“The Israeli army, when targeting terrorists, uses high-precision missiles so that civilians are not harmed,” he said. “Here they shoot Grad missiles from tanks, from planes — this is not a high-precision weapon.”

Recalling that he had been born in Russia, Azman said that he had “never thought in my worst dream that I might have to die being shelled by Russia.”

Russia was “the country where I was born, went to school, and where I have many friends who are silent — nobody called,” he disclosed.

 

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