Ukraine’s Jewish Community on Edge as Fears of Soviet-Era Persecution Reemerge

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LVIV, Ukraine – In the Soviet era, when Russia last dominated Ukraine, the country’s Jews faced heavy persecution. Now, the Jewish community fears a return to those terrible times. But whatever the future brings, some just want to be a blessing to their countrymen.

CBN News met up with Meylakh Sheykhet  of the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union. His office sits next to the bombed-out ruins of Ukraine’s oldest synagogue. 

For 359 years, the synagogue stood as a symbol of a thriving religious community. Then came 1941, which brought Nazi bombings followed by the massacre of 1.5 million Ukrainian Jews.

Now 81 years later, Sheykhet, a prominent Jewish leader here, sees dark clouds gathering once again, with Russia attacking Ukraine. “The most important is that the people will follow the Almighty’s commitments, and if they will do it, then peace will prevail,” he said.

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Putin’s obsession to re-take Ukraine, by force, if necessary, could erase the way of life many here have fought for since independence 31 years ago.

One Jewish resident told us, “It seems like he wants to create a new USSR, and that means we all need to be afraid. That’s scary.”

Sheykhet says Ukrainian Jews also suffered during that reign, as communist leaders tried to snuff out their faith. 

He worries it could happen again with a Russian takeover. “Especially Jews, they had a second holocaust, spiritual holocaust, in the Soviet time. It was a horrible totalitarian system,” Sheykhet said.

READ Kyiv’s Chief Rabbi and Family, Stay Put to Help Needy Despite Russian Invasion

As fear grows, Rabbi Mordechai Shlomo Bald, leader of Lviv’s largest synagogue, prepares to open doors to anyone fleeing potential violence. He wants his congregation to be a blessing to those in their hour of need.

“Please use me, use me not to be a bone in somebody’s throat, but use me to be beneficial, to make it pleasant, to make it better, to make it easier for people around,” he said.

Meanwhile, as Russian forces advance violently across Ukraine, the Jewish community in Odessa is making its escape. Journalist Michael Weiss explains, “Jews are evacuating their homes and synagogues to escape an army that says it has come to ‘de-Nazify’ a country.”




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