World Jewish Leaders Visit Site of 1941 Kiev Massacre

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Memorial ceremony for Jews murdered at Babi Yar marks second day of Jewish Agency for Israel's Board of Governors meeting.

Babi Yar and Auschwitz are two symbols of the Holocaust--a crime which has no comparison in human history.

Hundreds of Jewish leaders from across the globe participated in a ceremony today at Babi Yar in Ukraine, where an estimated 50,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

The ceremony took place during the meeting of The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Board of Governors which is being held in Kiev this week. In attendance were Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, James S. Tisch; Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky; Israel’s Minister of Immigrant Absorption, Sofa Landver; Minister of Housing and Construction, Uri Ariel; and the Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine, Reuven Din El.

As he laid a wreath on behalf of the Jewish Agency in memory of the Jews who perished at the site in the autumn of 1941, Mr. Sharansky said: “Ten days ago I participated in the opening of ‘Shoah’ the new permanent Jewish exhibit at Auschwitz. Babi Yar and Auschwitz are two symbols of the Holocaust – a crime which has no comparison in human history. Via demonization, double-standards and de-legitimization, the Nazis turned the Jews into a group who were so inferior, wretched and hated that their destruction seemed almost natural. Today, we are obliged to eradicate the phenomenon of the new anti-Semitism, which, through the three D’s - demonization, double-standards and de-legitimization, is attempting to create an atmosphere where the destruction of the State of Israel also appears almost natural.”

The Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency for Israel is comprised of Jewish and Zionist organizations from around the world and meets three times a year, traditionally in Jerusalem, to hold in-depth strategic discussions about issues affecting Israel and the Jewish world and to set policy for The Jewish Agency. This is the first time that the Board of Governors meeting has taken take place in the former Soviet Union and reflects the solidarity between world Jewry and Ukrainian Jewry.

The Jewish community in Ukraine is one of the largest in the former Soviet Union and numbers around 200,000. Since the beginning of the wave of Aliyah (immigration to Israel) from the former Soviet Union in 1989, 330,000 Ukrainians have immigrated to Israel with the assistance of the Jewish Agency, many of them through special tracks for young immigrants and professionals. Each year, thousands of Ukrainians choose to immigrate to Israel and many hundreds participate in experiential educational programs such as Birthright Israel and Masa Israel Journey.

Yesterday at the opening event of the Board of Governors, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Leonid Kozhara said: “We feel great sympathy for the Jews and condemn all of the crimes which have been committed against them. The Ukrainian people will never forget the tragedy of Babi Yar. Today the Ukrainian Jewish community is growing stronger from day to day thanks to cooperation with the government of the new and independent Ukraine.”

The Chief Rabbi of Kiev and Ukraine, Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, added at the event that this was one of the most important events in the 25 year history of the revitalized Jewish community in Kiev. He thanked the members of the Board of Governors and said: “That the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors—people who are active in helping our community—has come to visit our local Jewish community is of the utmost importance for us. We hope it will be as important for you to be here as it is for us to have you here.”

The opening event was sponsored by The World Forum of Russian Jewry, which is headed by the American-Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist, Alexander L. Levin. At the conclusion of today’s Babi Yar ceremony, members of the Board of Governors visited various Jewish Agency programs in Kiev.

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Joshua Berkman
Jewish Agency for Israel
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