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The Jewish cemetery in Buchach, Ukraine after being restored, 2018..(Photo by: COURTESY OF ESJF)
The inaugural Kiev Jewish Forum
By BORIS LOZHKIN
05/05/2019
The forum will also encourage a discussion on promoting peace and security, the importance of memorializing the Ukraine-Israel relationship and Jewish identity.
As the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine (JCU) approaches its 20th anniversary, we look forward to welcoming a number of important members of the global Jewish community to the inaugural Kiev Jewish Forum. Since taking over as president of the JCU, I have made it a priority to create partnerships with other international Jewish organizations in order to better understand the issues facing Jews around the world, while highlighting an important contribution of the Ukrainian Jewish community.

The gathering of Jewish global leaders in Kiev on May 5-7 will become a major milestone in this effort to reconnect Ukrainian Jewry with the global Jewish community. But it also carries a deeper meaning. The forum is hugely symbolic in the context of growing levels of antisemitism in Western Europe. Ukraine, known for its Soviet legacy and a complex relationship with the Jewish population, is nevertheless one of the few states which has reported a decrease in antisemitism over the last few years. Indeed, a number of prominent politicians and businessmen in Ukraine are Jewish, including both our prime minister and our new president. Ukraine and Israel are the only two states that share this in common. Ukraine therefore offers a natural platform for galvanizing the European effort in the fight against antisemitism, and the JCU’s inaugural forum is an important first step in this direction.

The timing of the forum is key. Ukraine has just emerged from its presidential elections, and this will be an opportune moment to raise the issue of minority rights’ protection to ensure it stays high on the agenda of the Ukrainian political leadership. The forum could also not come at a better time given the deeply concerning rise of antisemitism throughout the world. We need now more than ever to be proactive in engaging with each other and standing united against this renewed threat to our community globally.

That is why we designed the forum as an annual debating platform to show that Ukrainian Jewry is united with world Jewry against antisemitism and xenophobia, as well as generate concrete solutions for the fight against it globally. The forum will also encourage a discussion on promoting peace and security, the importance of memorializing the Ukraine-Israel relationship and Jewish identity.

We have a number of high-profile speakers arriving in Kiev, including World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder, Daniel Rubin (Chairman, NCSEJ), Mark Levin (WJC) and James Temerty (founder, Ukrainian Jewish Encounter). During the forum, Natan Sharansky, an Israeli politician and human rights activist, and Arkady Kogan, a film director, are also presenting a documentary film titled From Slavery to Freedom, which portrays the story of Soviet refuseniks through the prism of Sharansky’s life.

The Jewish Confederation of Ukraine is investing a lot of time and effort in making this inaugural event truly special. We hope the gathering will become an annual tradition for Jewish leaders and friends, being our contribution to helping unite the Jewish communities globally. I look forward to welcoming you all in Ukraine in due course, and also sharing the thoughts and ideas that we expect to come out of the inaugural meeting of the Kiev Jewish Forum.

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