Many of you have heard about the grossly anti-semitic fliers that were distributed in Donetsk, Ukraine which called on local Jews to register with the authorities. At the time, this appears to be an isolated incident, which has been described as a “provocation” by local Jewish leadership, and is not sanctioned by any government entity. Federation and our international partners at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ) are on the ground, monitoring the situation. We will continue to share updates as more information becomes available.
For more information on the incident in Donetsk, please refer to the Jewish Agency, JDC and NCSJ reports from today, below.
Director – Jewish Community Relations Center
Update on Ukraine from Chairman Natan Sharansky
On the eve of Passover near a synagogue in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine last week, as members of the local Jewish community emerged from the synagogue heading to the Passover seder, they were approached by three masked men. The masked men, dressed in military uniform bearing the Russian flag but without insignia, tried to distribute leaflets, supposedly signed by Denis Pushilin, governor of Donetsk People's Republic.
The leaflet declared: "As the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported the Bandera Ukrainian Nationalist movement in Kiev, and are hostile to the Orthodox Donetsk Republic and its citizens, the General Staff of the Republic of Donetsk has hereby decided: All Jewish citizens over the age of 16, residing in the sovereign Donetsk republic are to report to the Acting Commissioner for Nationalities till May 3, 2014. You should have on you cash in the amount of $50 for registration fees, passports to mark religious affiliation in, documents proving the family composition, as well as documents on all owned property. In case of evading registration, the guilty will be denied citizenship and expelled forcibly from the republic; their property will be confiscated."
When the members of the community refused to take these leaflets, the men began to harass them near the synagogue and only left the place after the community members threatened to call the police.
The Jewish community of Donetsk considers this act a provocation. In turn, Governor Dennis Pushilin has denied any connection to the leaflet. Amidst current political tensions, different forces are trying to take advantage of playing the "Jewish card” in these circumstances, and this is just another disturbing example of such incitement.
This episode demonstrates only too well the uncertain position in which the Jews of Ukraine find themselves today.
Despite the uncertainty, The Jewish Agency continues to operate in the country as it always has. Since the onset of this conflict, our educational and cultural programs for local Jewish communities have continued, just as our aliyah assistance is in increasing demand; in response, we have had to send in additional staff and devote additional resources to accommodate accordingly, and we appreciate the support of our partners for enabling us to do that. While there is no serious political force behind this leaflet, in this time of anarchy and as all parties try to score political points and even use the "Jewish card", the situation is quite tense and we have reasons to be concerned about growing anti-Semitism nonetheless.
JDC is deeply disturbed by the reports out of Donetsk regarding official-looking flyers that were distributed outside a local synagogue on Passover calling for local Jews to register with the authorities.
While this appears at the moment to be an isolated anti-Semitic incident, described by local Jewish leaders as “a provocation,” we remain alert and will monitor the situation and adjust our work on the ground and contingency options accordingly, as we have done since the outbreak of unrest in Ukraine.
We are in constant contact with our staff on the ground as well as local Jewish leaders and continue to carry out our mission undeterred.
Alan H. Gill
April 17, 2014, 12:15 p.m. WASHINGTON, D.C.
TO: NCSJ Leadership and Interested Parties
FROM: Stephen M. Greenberg, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, NCSJ President;
Mark B. Levin, NCSJ Executive Director
UKRAINE UPDATE #22
On the evening of April 15, official-looking documents were circulated in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, calling on Jews to register with the Nationalities Commissioner and pay $50 or lose their citizenship and face deportation. Three individuals wearing ski masks and the flag of the Russian Federation were seen distributing the flyers near the Donetsk synagogue.
The leaflets read:
“Dear citizens of Jewish nationality! Due to the fact that leaders of the Jewish Community of Ukraine support the Bandera junta in Kiev and are hostile to the Orthodox Donetsk Republic and its citizens, the main headquarters of the Donetsk Republic declares the following:
- Every citizen of Jewish nationality older than 16 years, residing in the territory of a sovereign Donetsk Republic has to go to Donetsk Regional Administrator to see the Nationalities Commissioner, Office 514, for registration. The registration fee is $50.
- Persons should have with them with cash in the amount of $50 for registration, a passport to mark their religion, and documents of family members, as well as ownership documents for their properties and vehicles.
- In case of failure to register, the perpetrators will lose their citizenship and will be deported outside the republic, with their property confiscated.”
The flyers were signed in the name of Denis Pushilin, the leader of Donetsk’s pro-Russian separatists, who led the takeover of several government buildings and claimed the city as the Donetsk Republic.
NCSJ has contacted the Donetsk Jewish community leaders, who called the flyers a provocation. They said that all authorities have denied any connection to the flyers, and that Pushilin has denied authorship.
Several members of the community went to the Nationalities Commissioner, who repudiated the flyer, and said that the leaflets were distributed to cause unrest among the Jewish population.
Similar leaflets were distributed targeting international students at the local university.
In addition to the local community, NCSJ has been in regular contact with the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Kiev on the issue of the flyers.
NCSJ will continue to monitor the situation in Donetsk and throughout Ukraine, and provide you with timely and critical updates.
NCSJ CONDEMNS ANTI-SEMITIC DONETSK FLIERS THAT DEMAND JEWISH UKRAINIANS “REGISTER”
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 17, 2014 - NCSJ condemned a serious and disturbing anti-Semitic action in Eastern Ukraine this week.
Unknown persons have widely distributed fliers in Donetsk that demanded that Jews “register” their household with the local Nationalities Commission office.
Jews are asked to bring a $50 fee to cover the placement of a “religious nationality” mark in passports, and to register their property and possessions with local authorities, or face deportation.
NCSJ called the fliers a clear provocation, and a gross act of anti-Semitism. The fliers are reminiscent of notices distributed by the Nazis during the Holocaust during their invasion of local communities in Europe.
NCSJ has spoken with members of the U.S. government and with Jewish leaders in Donetsk about the fliers.
The Jewish leaders said that the local Nationalities Commission had repudiated the fliers’ message, and that they had not issued a call for registration.
Jewish leaders also said that the fliers’ named signatory, Denis Pushilin, the leader of Donetsk’s pro-Russian separatists, has denied authorship.
NCSJ commends the swift response by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, who condemned the fliers’ distribution.
NCSJ Chairman Stephen M. Greenberg said that “NCSJ is continuing to work with local Jewish leaders and national officials to do everything possible to find those responsible for this outrageous and reprehensible act, and to hold them accountable.”