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March 9, 2022 10:57 am
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‘Another Jewish Community Ceases to Exist’: Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Condemns Russian Advance, Attacks on Civilians

avatar by Ben Cohen

Elderly Jews departing the Ukrainian city of Bila Tserkva in the face of a Russian onslaught. Photo: Screenshot

One of Ukraine’s leading rabbis has excoriated the Russian troops invading the country for driving out the historic Jewish communities that were painstakingly revived in recent decades.

Chief Rabbi Yaakov Bleich on Wednesday shared an amateur video that showed a group of elderly Jews sitting on a bus as they waited to be evacuated from Bila Tserkva, 60 miles south of the capital Kyiv.

The city has been hit on multiple occasions by cruise missiles aimed at Kyiv by Russian forces. Russian air strikes against Bila Tserkva on Tuesday ripped through residential areas, leaving several apartment buildings destroyed.

Commenting on the departure of Bila Tserkva’s Jews, Bleich wrote: “Another Jewish community ceases to exist in Ukraine, losing everything they have gained over a lifetime, thanks to the ‘liberators’ from Russia.”

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The image of scared, elderly Jews fleeing from a Ukrainian city was reminiscent of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Bleich remarked.

“When you watch this video, the first thought that comes to mind is that this is 1941 and the Jews are fleeing from advancing Wehrmacht units,” he wrote. “But it is not! This is the year 2022. Jewish grandparents from the Ukrainian town of Bila Tserkva are hastily fleeing the rocket and bomb attacks of the Russian army, deliberately shooting at civilians!”

Fourteen days into the Russian invasion, both sides have invoked the horrors of World War II, with Russia encountering severe criticism internationally for depicting Ukrainian leaders — including Volodymyr Zelensky, the country’s Jewish president — as “neo-Nazis.”

On Wednesday, one of Ukraine’s most popular television presenters delivered what he sarcastically called a “master class” in the dismissal of Russian propaganda points.

“Volodomyr Zelensky is Jewish; how is it that our president is a neo-Nazi?” said Anatoliy Anatolych, the presenter of the “Morning Ukraine” program.

Anatolych pointed out that Israel “provides maximum support” to Ukraine, citing the rally held in Tel Aviv at the start of the invasion that witnessed thousands of protesters unfurling Ukrainian flags in the city’s Habimah Square.

Adding that the far right candidate in the 2019 Ukrainian election won just 1.5 percent of the vote and that “neo-Nazi and neo-fascist propaganda is banned in Ukraine,” Anatolych said that if his talking points still failed to persuade those sympathizing with Russia, “then send them to where the Russian ship is going” — a reference to the destruction on Tuesday of the Russian warship that bombed the Ukrainian base on Snake Island in the Black Sea on the war’s first day.

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