State Department’s special envoy on anti-Semitism visiting Ukraine

Ira Forman meets with Jewish leaders in Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk; Ukrainian chief rabbi says has remained in frequent contact with US envoy.

Ira Forman  (photo credit: Sam Sokol)
Ira Forman
(photo credit: Sam Sokol)
The State Department’s special envoy charged with monitoring and combating anti-Semitism is in Ukraine, where he has been meeting with Jewish leaders to assess the situation facing the country’s Jews amid growing violence between the government and pro-Russian separatists.
Ira Forman was appointed to the position by President Barack Obama last year.
He traveled to Ukraine last November, several weeks prior to the outbreak of street protests that led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich.
Forman is currently meeting with Jewish leaders in Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk.
Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich told The Jerusalem Post he had met with Forman in the United States prior to the visit and that the two were in frequent contact.
“I speak to him all the time,” Bleich said. “Forman was here earlier and he met with representatives of different communities and actually confirmed that the levels of anti-Semitism here are nowhere near the propaganda coming out and being distributed around the world by different parties.”
In March, the US envoy called into question Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that the Ukrainians were spreading anti-Semitism.
After Yanukovich’s ouster a series of violent anti-Semitic acts shocked Ukrainian Jews. Local Jewish leaders, including the chief rabbi, blamed the attacks on Russia, which they said was using the specter of anti-Semitism as a justification for its annexation of Crimea.
The ultra-nationalist Svoboda party, which was instrumental in toppling Yanukovich, had previously been accused of anti-Semitism by numerous Jewish organizations.
Bleich said Forman has been very helpful to the Ukrainian Jewish community, adding that the envoy was in touch with American Jewish leaders to brief them on their Ukrainian co-religionists’ plight.
Forman will soon meet with Turkish Jewish leaders in Ankara, and be in Israel from May 25 to 28.