Several Jewish organizations expressed concern on Wednesday that increasing violence in Kiev could spill over into anti-Semitic attacks against the Jewish community.
The groups, both within the Ukraine and abroad, issued statements in the wake of this week’s violence between riot police and antigovernment protesters who have occupied the city’s Maidan Square, calling for President Viktor Yanukovich to step down.
While local Jewish leaders have urged their constituents to avoid getting involved in the conflict, an unknown number of Jews have taken part in fighting since the protests started in late November.
At least 26 people, both police and protesters, have been killed since the police started their current push to clear the square on Tuesday.
It is impossible to know if any of those killed were Jews.
None has been publicly identified, Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, told The Jerusalem Post
“We, along with everyone else here, are highly concerned,” he said. “At the moment Jews are not specifically targeted, but if general violence erupts, Jews can become an easy target.”
According to Dolinsky, Israel’s ambassador is expected to meet with senior Ukrainian officials on Thursday.
In response to the violence, community schools have closed and Jews have undertaken to minimize their presence on the street, to avoid “falling into the hands” of frustrated and anti-Semitic demonstrators, Hillel Cohen, a representative of Hatzalah Ukraine, a local aid organization, said. Jewish institutions have increased their security.
Neither side has “brought the Jews into the national conflict,” Cohen added.
Despite this, Alex Selsky of the World Forum of Russian- Speaking Jewry said that “the community has a fear that the anger will be directed at the Jews, as has happened in the past.”
Since the protests began, two Jews have been assaulted in the city.
Both the European Jewish Union and the New Yorkbased Jewish Joint Distribution Committee have said they are keeping an eye on developments and are in contact with the community.
“JDC, together with its global partners, is constantly monitoring the situation on the ground and maintains round-the-clock contact with our staff and community leaders,” a spokesman said.
The organization is continuing to provide social and medical services to its Ukrainian clients and has “prepared contingency plans for a variety of scenarios.”
An EJC spokeswoman said the organization is “deeply concerned” by the use of weapons in Kiev. The group is “closely monitoring the situation” given that “there is also a minority nationalist element within the general protest movement who professed antagonism toward Jews,” a reference to the anti-Semitic Svoboda party.
Oleksandr Feldman, a Jewish member of the Ukrainian parliament and the founder of the UJC, issued a statement “to all parties of the conflict with the appeal to stop the violence and to [come to a] peaceful resolution.”
Feldman called on “our partners and friends in international and national Jewish organizations to create the urgent fund to help victims of the conflict.
“With more than 25 murdered people from both sides and hundreds of wounded, I sincerely believe that Jews must not stay indifferent in these extremely hard times for Ukraine,” Feldman said.