Eduard Dolinsky of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee speaking at Babi Yar.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ukrainian Jewish leaders on Tuesday demanded that their government protect Holocaust sites throughout the country, during a pre-Yom Kippur ceremony memorializing the more than 33,000 Jews killed at Kiev’s Babi Yar ravine.
Babi Yar has been vandalized six times since the beginning of the year, most recently on September 16, when unidentified persons piled tires around a memorial menorah and lit them on fire.
While the number of violent anti-Semitic incidents was low in Ukraine in 2013 compared to Western Europe, anti-Semitic vandalism spiked in the Eastern European nation last year, according to the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.
Popular targets for vandals were Holocaust memorials such as Babi Yar. Synagogues in Zaporizhya, Simferopol, Mykolaiv, Kiev and Hust were targeted in attempted arson attacks.
“The last act of brutal vandalism at Babi Yar – the site of massacre of tens of thousands of Jews – is not just a public insult of honor and dignity of the Jewish people, but also a humiliation for the country and its government, whose inaction made possible this crime as well as other similar acts of abuse in Kiev and other Ukrainian settlements,” the leaders of the several Jewish organizations said in a joint letter following the ceremony.
Representatives of the Jewish Council of Ukraine, Jewish Forum of Ukraine, Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Council of Jewish Religious Communities, Council of Progressive Communities and Conservative movement in Ukraine, and others, decried the vandalism as part of a “much larger problem of abuse of hundreds of Jewish massacre sites throughout the country.
“We demand the immediate and effective steps to prevent vandalism in the future along with the strengthening of criminal responsibility for vandalism and punishment of the organizers and executors of this crime,” they wrote.
“[The] almost no reaction of civil society and mass media, no feedback from authorities and law enforcement agencies in respect to the events in Babi Yar clearly indicates ignorance of the society in respect to the large-scale tragedy that happened to the Jews of Ukraine during the Holocaust.
“On the eve of the anniversary of the tragic events at Babi Yar and the most important day of the Jewish calendar, we urge the president of Ukraine, the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada [the parliament] of Ukraine and people’s deputies of all levels, head of the Kyiv City State Administration, heads of law enforcement agencies, political parties and civil society organizations to pay special attention to the protection of tranquility and memory of innocent victims – our brothers and sisters murdered in Holocaust,” the NGOs wrote.
The New York based Anti-Defamation League added its voice to the protest, with its national director Jonathan Greenblatt telling The Jerusalem Post that while it recognizes Ukraine’s difficulties, “a minimal investment of security manpower and other resources could serve as a strong deterrent to this string of anti-Semitic acts which cause such distress to the Jewish community in Ukraine and abroad.”