Among Ukraine’s Jews, the bigger worry is Putin, not pogroms

The New York Times reports: From his office atop the world’s biggest Jewish community center, Shmuel Kaminezki, the chief rabbi of this eastern Ukrainian city, has followed with dismay Russian claims that Ukraine is now in the hands of neo-Nazi extremists — and has struggled to calm his panicked 85-year-old mother in New York.

Raised in Russia and a regular viewer of Russian television, she “calls every day to ask, ‘Have the pogroms happened yet?’ ” Rabbi Kaminezki said. He tells his mother that they have not, and that she should stop watching Russian TV. “It is a total lie,” he said. “Jews are not in danger in Ukraine.”

Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, added his own voice to the scaremongering in a speech at the Kremlin on March 18, when he described the ouster of President Viktor F. Yanukovych of Ukraine as an armed coup executed by “nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites” who “continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day.”

But instead of reeling in panic at any fascist resurgence, the Jewish community of Dnipropetrovsk, one of the largest in Ukraine, is celebrating the recent appointment of one of its own, a billionaire tycoon named Ihor Kolomoysky, as the region’s most powerful official.

“They made a Jew the governor. What kind of anti-Semitism is this?” asked Solomon Flaks, the 87-year-old chairman of the region’s Council of Jewish Veterans of the Great Patriotic War, a group of a rapidly shrinking number of World War II veterans. [Continue reading…]

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