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April 30, 1993 - Image 74

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-04-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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-

Ukraine's Jews
Seek Unification

Odessa, Ukraine (JTA) —
Ukraine's Jewish commun-
ity is seeking to unify its
fragmented organizations,
build new institutions for
Jews that plan to remain in
the region and help those
members who wish to
emigrate.
The Association of Jewish
Organizations and Com-
munities of Ukraine, an um-
brella group that seeks to
unite the disparate Jewish
community of Ukraine, met
here to discuss its plans for
the future.
Since its founding two
years ago, the association
has attempted to unify the
large and divided Jewish
community of Ukraine.
Over the past few years,
while the Soviet Union
crumbled, the Jewish com-
munity experienced tremen-
dous amounts of activity
after decades of being se-
verely limited in scope by
repressive Communist rule.
One of the consequences of
this explosion of activity is a
fragmentation of the com-
munity and an overlap of
efforts.
For example, there are
now over 60 Jewish organ-
izations in the Ukrainian
capital of Kiev alone, almost
all of them founded in the
past two years.
Thirty-two representatives
from 17 cities in Ukraine at-
tended the conference, which
was held at Odessa's Jewish
Community Center.
The speeches and discus-
sions among the delegates
underscored the two major
issues affecting the Jewish
community: first, continued
emigration of Jews to Israel
and the West, and second,
questions about the political
and economic stability of the
region.
Since 1988, thousands of
Jews have left Ukraine for
Israel, America and, in some
cases, Germany. Though
preparing those who want to
leave still remains a high
priority for the community,
building institutions for
those who remain is seen as
equally important.
Despite the emigration,
the Jewish population of
Ukraine is estimated at over
500,000.
In Odessa, for instance, an
estimated 50,000 Jews live
among a general population
of 1.5 million. Before World
War II, there were more
than 250,000 Jews living in

41111110111MPIMIIMMINIMIIIIIMMIIIIIIMINIMMI10111P

this cosmopolitan city, com-
prising over one-third of its
population.
A major result of the
emigration to Israel and the
West has been a dramatic
change in the makeup of the
community.
Since younger people have
made up the bulk of those
leaving, the population is
rapidly aging, with an
estimated 30 percent above
the pension age of 60.
The delegates to the con-
ference also acknowledged a
connection between the in-
dependence and growth of
the Jewish community and
the continuing stability of
the region.
Leonid Finberg, director of
the Jewish Association's
Scientific Center, said, "Our
future is tied up with
Ukraine's, and dependent on
the outcome of the battle in
Russia."
He was referring to the
referendum on Boris
Yeltsin's policies, which ap-
pears to have been a victory
for the Russian president.
Besides trying to unite the
Jewish community of
Ukraine, the association's
other major goal is repre-
senting the community
abroad.
"We hope to become the
voice of Ukrainian Jewry,"
said Joseph Zissels, the
chairman of the executive
council of the Jewish Associ-
ation.
Since its founding, the
association has established
strong working relation-
ships with the American
Jewish Joint Distribution
Committee, the Israeli Fund
for Culture in the Diaspora
and other international Jew-
ish organizations now work-
ing in the region.
The association has de-
veloped ties with the Ukrai-
nian government.
Though the association
has established itself as the
leading Jewish organization
on the national level, it is
still unclear to what extent
it actually represents
Ukrainian Jews. One of the
lasting legacies of Commu-
nist rule is that many Jews
have little or no contact with
the established Jewish
community.
One of the decisions taken
at the conference was to
schedule seminars for
teachers of Jewish subjects
throughout the country.
Over the past few years,

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JJ

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