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March 14, 2014

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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 14, 2014 In Crimea, some Jews feel safer after Russian l00te0000,,3ention By Cnaan LiPhshiz (JTA)--Shortly after Rus- sian soldiers occupied the Crimean city of Sevastopol lastweek, Leah Cyrlikova took her two children out for an afternoon stroll in a city park. When they passed a group of soldiers, they stopped to have a friendly chat and pose with them for photos. While many Ukrainian Jews have strongly condemned the Russian military incursion into Crimea, others see the intervention as restoring order in the wake of a violent revolution that overthrew the pro-Russian government of President Viktor Yanukovych. "I feel safer with them around,,' said Cyrlikova, a Jew- ish Ukrainian who has lived in Sevastopol for five years. "These are crazy times, and now I know that if something bad happens, theywill stop it." Divisions within the Ukrai- nian Jewish community have deepened in the wake of the Russian movement last week into the Crimean peninsula, where approximately 10,000 Jews live amid an ethnic Rus- sian majority. Many Ukrainian Jews took part in the opposition move- ment centered in Kiev's Maidan, or Independence Square. Jews participa.ted despite the fact that the protests included far-right activists and some political figures who have been known to espouse anti-Semitic views. But support for the revolution is hardly unanimous among the country's Jews. Rabbi Misha Kapustin, whose Reform synagogue in the Crimean capital of Simfer- opoI was recently vandalized with swastikas, acknowledged that some Jews support Rus- sian involvement in the crisis. "In this area there is con- siderable support for the Rus- sian invasion, and the local [Crimean Jewish] community is very assimilated here," Ka- pustin told JTA. "You should_ take into account the effect of Russian propaganda: the television they watch, what papers they read." But he stressed that he felt his country was being invaded by foreigners. "How would a Brit feel if another nation invaded London? That's how I feel as a citizen of Ukraine," Kapustin said. "The city is occupied by Russians, who seem to have decided to take over the Crimea. If this were the case, I would leave the country because I want to live in democratic Ukraine." Residents of Crimea are at present able to move around freely at all hours, Kapustin said. They are also free to leave the peninsula for other parts of Ukraine. Kapustin asked his wife, Marina, to leave for Israel until the situ- ation stabilizes. She refused. "I stayed to remain with my community, but I wasn't very happy my family also stayed," Kapustin said. "I would rather see them as far away from the action as pos- sible, but I respect Marina's choice." The United States has condemned Russian "ag- gression" in Ukraine and threatened to impose eco- nomic sanctions in response. Major news agencies, as well as American and Ukrainian officials, have reported a massive mobilization of Rus- sian troops in Crimea. But speaking at a news conference near Moscow on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that his troops had occupied Crimea, while reserving the right to act militarily to protect Ukrai- nian citizens from an "orgy" of radical nationalists and anti-Semites. "We have seen the work of neo-Nazis in Ukraine," Putin said. "They and anti-Semites are rampant in Ukraine today." Putin seemed to be refer- encing the prominent role in the Kiev protests of Svoboda, a xenophobic political party whose members have referred to Jews as "kikes." Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok has described his movement as the "worst fear of the Jewish- Russian mafia." Last Monday, Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, appointed Svo- boda politician Sidor Kizin governor of the Zhytomyr district, pending elections scheduled for May. At the same time, Jewish business- man Igor Kolomoisky was appointed governor of the Dnipropetrovsk district. The protest movement erupted in November because of the Yanukovych govern- ment's prioritizing of ties with Moscow over relations with the European Union. But the revolution has exposed deep divisions between the country's mostly Ukrainian- speaking west and the more Russian-oriented east and south. "The Maidan Revolution was a dangerous thing," said Boruch Gorin, a prominent Lubavitch rabbi in Moscow who was born in the pre- dominantly Russian-speaking city of Odessa in southern Ukraine. "The decision to abandon democracy as a tool for change and adopt violence is always frightening, espe- cially to minorities." Gorin, however, acknowl- edged that the protest move- ment was larger than just nationalist diehards and included both Jewish and non-Jewish liberals, as well as ordinary Ukrainians angered by rampant corruption and poor economic policies. Amid the months of unrest leading up to Yanu- kovych's ouster, unknown assailants staged two violent attacks on Jews in Kiev. On Jan. 17, an Orthodox Jew was stabbed after leaving a synagogue. The week before, another Orthodox Jew was beaten outside his home. Both men are expected to recover fully. On Feb. 23, the day af- ter Yanukovych's ouster, a synagogue was firebombed in southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhi. It sustained only minor damage. Last week, unidentified in- dividuals drew swastikas and wrote "Death to the Jews" on the front door of Kapustin's Simferopol synagogue in Crimea. Some leaders of Ukrainian Jewry, including a Kiev-based Ukrainian chief rabbi, Yaakov Dov Bleich, suggest that at least some of these incidents may have been provocations by pro-Russian forces seeking Sean Gallup/Getty Images Soldiers under Russian command look on from a military vehicle at the Russian occu- pied Belbek airbase as Russian-led troops blockaded a number of Ukrainian military bases across Crimea, on March 4, 2014 in Lubimovka, Ukraine. Simferopo| Reform Synagogue Ner Tamid Simferopol Reform Synagogue Ner Tamid on Feb. 28. to justify Russian involvement in the crisis. At a press conference in New York, Bleich called on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. He drew a parallel between Russian actions in Crimea and the false pretenses Adolf Hitler used to justify his inva- sions and annexations of other countries in the 1930s. But others say the threat of anti-Semitic violence is real and that Russian protection is vital for Ukrainian Jews. Baruch Fichman, founder and president of the Ukrainian League Against Anti-Sem- itism, based in the western Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi, said Ukrainian neo-Nazis are feeling emboldened by the revolution's success and are more dangerous now. "The threat of Russian intervention is a good thing because it will cause the neo- Nazis to rethink their attacks on Jews," Fichman said. "Rus- sian intervention in other places in Ukraine would be a positive thing for the safety of the Jewish population." Putin's suggestions not- withstanding, Gorin says Rus- sia's mobilization in Ukraine is not motivated by its concern for Jews but by the new Ukrai- nian government's scrapping of a law recognizing Russian as an official language. Rus- sian intervention, he said, was an error that would mainly serve to reignite Ukrainian nationalist fervor. "All said and done," Gorin said, "Jews and non-Jews in Ukraine perceive Russian military intervention as a bigger threat than any revo- lutionary government." b. Jewish kids' books provider expands to Arab s00.00.tor Akmal Nagnagy/Harold Grinspoon Foundation Israeli Arab children at a school in Baqa al-Gharbiyye reading books from the Lantern Library, a spinoff of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation's PJ Library. By Julie Wiener United States, Canada, Mexico and Australia--is also helping keep Arab Israeli kids engaged in reading. The Massachusetts-based Harold Grinspoon Foundation recently launched Maktabat al-Fanoos, Arabic for Lantern Library, which provides Arabic children's books toArab Israeli children in kindergarten and pre=K. The program, funded in NEW YORK (JTA)--A Re- ligion News Service article about the PJ Library is head- lined"Free books--lO million of them--help keep Jewish kids Jewish." Now the foundation behind the widely lauded nine-year- old program--which distrib- utes free books to more than 130,000 Jewish children in the partnership with Israel's Ministry of Education (which is paying approximately 75 percent) and the San Diego- based Price Family Charitable Fund will give 45,000 children monthly books "based on universal values," according to a press release issued by the Grinspoon Foundation. Matkabat al-Fanoos comes four years after the Grin- spoon Foundation launched Sifriyat Pijama, PJ Library's "sister program" distributing Hebrew-language books for Israeli Jews. What are two American Jewish foundations--Price was established by Sol Price, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants--doing distrib- utingArabic books? It's in the interest of the State of Israel, says Galina Vromen, director of the Grinspoon Foundation's Israel operations. "In many cases the Arab population is the poorest and the least likely to have books at home," she told JTA. "It behooves the Jewish state to promote the well-being of all its citizens." Branching out into the Arab community "seemed the logical and right thing to do, in the sense that the Arab population needs books, too. They also need to have parents and children reading together, and we want to instill a love of books in them as well." Price also funds Arab early childhood programs in Israel. And other American Jewish foundations, as well as federa- tions, have donated money for social service programs in the Israeli Arab sector. While the Arabic books, unlike the Hebrew and Eng- lish ones the foundation distributes, won't have Jewish content, Vromen said there "isn't such a stretch between Jewish values and universal values: whether it's respecting parents, inviting strangers into your home or visiting the sick, these are just as relevant for Arab kids." "We very much wanted to keep the part of the program that really stimulates parents to talk to their kids about things that matter," she added. "It's about creating a generation that loves to read and knows how to behave." One challenge, however, is the dearth of Arabic chil- dren's books available to the program, a combination of the turmoil in the Arab world limiting its children's literary scene and "there not being relations [between Israel and] most of the Arab world that would allow for free trade of books," Vromen explained. A number of Arab publish- ers have refused to sell reprint rights to the Israeli publishers that create special imprints of the books, with parents' guides, for the program. "When Arab publishers don't want to work with us, the only people ultimately harmed are Israeli Arab children and their families," Vromen said. "We hope pub- lishers will understand this and will decide to make their books available to Arab chil- dren in Israel, enhancing the children's access to Arabic culture and heritage.l' PJ Library has influenced the American Jewish chil- dren's book-pUblishing in- dustry, committing to use manuscripts if published and spurring publishers to bring back out- of-print books. It has also pushed Hebrew- language publishers to pro- duce more books that can serve its diverse population of both religious and secular Jews. Given the limited selection of Arabic books on the Israeli market, Vromen says it may "play a similar role in Arabic literature," encouraging not just free trade but the emer- gence of more Arab Israeli authors.