Polish Jewish preacher

Country or Territory — Core Jewish Population — Population per Jewish Person — Enlarged Jewish Population [Source: Wikipedia +]
Russia — 186,000 — 766 — 500,000
Ukraine — 63,000 — 703 — 400,000
Hungary — 47,900 — 207 — 150,000
Belarus — 11,500 — 835 — 25,000
Romania — 9,400 — 2,312 — 20,000
Azerbaijan — 9,100 — 1,113 — 16,000
Latvia — 5,600 — 387 — 12,000
Czech Republic — 3,900 — 2,725 — 15,000
Uzbekistan — 3,800 — 7,613 — 8,000

Moldova — 3,700 — 968 — 7,500
Kazakhstan — 3,100 — 5,790 — 6,500
Lithuania — 2,900 — 1,209 — 6,500
Georgia — 2,800 — 1,763 — 6,000
Slovakia — 2,600 — 2,093 — 4,500
Bulgaria — 2,000 — 3,462 — 6,000
Estonia — 2,000 — 629 — 3,400

Croatia — 1,700 — 2,629 — 3,000
Serbia — 1,400 — 5,149 — 2,800
Bosnia and Herzegovina — 500 — 7,742 — 1,000
Kyrgyzstan — 500 — 11,208 — 1,000
Armenia — 300 - 500 — 10,200 — 300 - 500
Turkmenistan — 200 — 25,860 — 400
Macedonia — 260 — 20,910 — 360
Albania — 40 - 50 — 75,500 — 40 - 50

The Israeli guide Oded Mandel, born in 1981, is the son of Romanian Jews, whose father survived the Holocaust as a child. Geraldine Brooks wrote in Smithsonian magazine: Oded’s parents immigrated to Israel in the 1970s, after the Jewish state reportedly made cash payments to the oppressive regime of Nicolae Ceausescu in exchange for exit visas. Oded serves as a reserve officer in the Israel Defense Forces. Bearded and bespectacled, he describes himself as “proud in my military service, in being Jewish, proud in my parents and what they did to come here.” [Source:Geraldine Brooks, Smithsonian magazine, July-August 2019]

Websites and Resources: Virtual Jewish Library jewishvirtuallibrary.org/index ; Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; BBC - Religion: Judaism bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism ; Yivo Institute of Jewish Research yivoinstitute.org ; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish History.org jewishhistory.org ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu

Polish Jews

Poland used to have one of the largest Jewish populations in the world. Of the 3.2 million Jews (10 percent of a 38-million-person population) that lived in Poland before World War II only about 8,000 remain today. Poland lost six million people in World War II—half of them Jews. Of the 6,000 or so Jews that were in Poland at the time Communism collapsed in the early 1990s, many were old and destitute.

model of the Great Synagogue of Warsaw

According to Associated Press: “Poland was a haven for Jews for nearly 1,000 years, and was home to Europe's largest community before the war. Most were killed in the ghettos and death camps that Nazi Germany set up after it invaded Poland in 1939, at the war's start. In the nearly 20 years since communism fell, the community has enjoyed new vitality, with Jews returning to their roots and shaking off old fears of anti-Semitism. [Source: Associated Press, December 22, 2008]

According to AFP: “Poland's contemporary Jewish community, however, is a drop in an overwhelmingly Catholic ocean of 38 million. In the 2002 census, 1,133 people declared themselves ethnic Jews, a self-defined category excluding those who see themselves as Poles of Jewish faith. Overall, no one knows how many Jews there are in Poland. Estimates range from 20,000 to 50,000, far outstripping those who attend synagogue or are active in the community. Many Holocaust survivors able to hide their identity during the war decided to keep it that way if they stayed in Poland, to protect the next generation, or didn't pass on what they may not have followed faithfully before.” [Source: AFP, April 27, 2011 \^/]

“Beyond the purely religious sphere, Poland's regular, vibrant festivals of Jewish music and literature draw crowds of Jews and non-Jews alike. Cemetery and synagogue restoration, school Jewish history lessons and flourishing academic research are also helping reclaim the past. 2012, saw the opening of Warsaw's purpose-built museum of 1,000 years of Polish-Jewish history, located in what during World War II was the ghetto set up by the Nazis. Polish Jewish community is grounded confidently in its faith, culture. "Over 20 years ago the situation was quite different. But now it's community building," Piotr Kadlcik, 49, head of Poland's national Jewish federation, told AFP. "We have a generation of young people for whom being Jewish is neither a reason to be proud nor ashamed, but just normal.” \^/

History of Jews in Poland

Jews have been in Poland for 800 years. The first arrived during the Crusades to escape persecution in Germany. They were welcomed in the 14th century by Poland's King Kazimierz III who hoped they would introduce urban skills to his largely peasant kingdom.

For two centuries the Jews were members of the privileged class and many Poles married off their daughter to Jewish merchants to move up in the world. This period came to an end during the Counter-Reformation in the 16th century when Jews were so badly persecuted some of them converted to Catholicism. During the pogroms of the mid 19th-century the Jewish population of some towns declined by a third. [Source: "The Villagers" by Richard Critchfield, Anchor Books]

In Poland, Jews built wooden synagogues that were outfit with towers where offenders of Jewish laws were imprisoned. Traditionally 17th century Jewish markets contained a fish shop next to a meat shop. There were also clothing shops, bookstores and a food stores.

According to AFP: “On the eve of the German invasion in 1939, Poland had Europe's largest Jewish community, ranging from the non-religious to the traditionally-garbed Hasidic. Half of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust were Polish. Most died in camps set up by the Germans in occupied Poland, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau. In 1946, a year after the war, Poland's Jews numbered just 200,000 according to state data. Most emigrated amid the creation of Israel in 1948 or anti-Semitic campaigns in the late 1950s and 1968 stoked by power struggles within the communist regime, which crumbled in 1989.” [Source: AFP, April 27, 2011 \^/]

"Before the war, Polish-Jewish relations were part of normal, everyday life. Then for 50 years, there weren't any normal Polish-Jewish relations," Michael Schudrich, 55, Poland's US-born chief rabbi, told AFP. "For 20 years, we've been getting back to what it was like for centuries," added Schudrich, whose ancestors hailed from Poland and who arrived here in the 1990s. \^/

Anti-Semitism and Violence Against Jews After World War II in Poland

Poland lost six million people in World War II—half of them Jews. About 250,000 Jews remained in Poland after World War II. Many Poles moved into former Jewish homes and occupied the land of Jews who were killed during the Holocaust. Some were upset when survivors returned to claim their property.

Polish Jews

Outbursts of ant-Semitism in the late 1940s took the lives of hundreds of Holocaust survivors. In the southern Polish town of Kielce 42 Jews were killed on July 4, 1946 in what some historians describe as the last pogrom. The violence began when Jews were accused of kidnapping a boy that had been missing for a couple of days (he later was found). Twelve people were put on trial for the deaths and nine were sentenced to death less than a week after the massacre.

Describing the Kielce incident one Jewish man who was getting ready to leave for Palestine told AP years afterwards. "Two young Jews came in. They were scared. They said a big crowd of Poles led by militants was approaching, shouting 'Death to the Jews, they killed our children." They attacked his home. His skull was cracked. When he hit was hit by a stone after that he thought, "God! Those people have no mercy in their hearts."

By the mid-1970s only 10,000 Jews, mostly older people remained in Poland. An "anti-Zionist" drive in 1967 and 1968 forced about two thirds of the remaining 30,000 Polish Jews to flee the country, mostly to Israel. The move, in the view of some Poles, helped get rid of the "traditional enemy" and create job opening for ambitious Communist party members.

Polish Jews Raised As Non-Jews

According to AFP: Kadlcik wasn't raised Jewish. "But I've known from my early years that I am Jewish. In those days there was no such thing as a Jewish community because after 1968 everything collapsed," he said. "In the 80s I became involved in the Jewish Flying University — flying because its illegal meetings were held in various people's homes — and later I became more and more active," he said. [Source: AFP, April 27, 2011 \^/]

Others came from mixed families where identity was not hard and fast. "My father was Jewish, and my mother, Polish. But they were not religious at all," Warsaw publisher Anna Szemberg, 61, told AFP. Szemberg is not considered Jewish because the identity traditionally passes from mother to child. Her sons were not raised religious, but one has converted. "I try to understand. Above all, I'm with him. I try to learn as much as possible about the Jewish religion and tradition. But myself, I wouldn't convert. Maybe it's just too late," Szemberg said.

The community also wants other Jews - notably from the United States and Israel who visit Holocaust sites - to wake up to its revival and even very existence and stop seeing Poland simply as a place of death. That was echoed by Polish-born Irith Cherniavsky, 64, who emigrated to Israel in 1957 and was visiting Warsaw with her family.

Anti-Semitism in Poland

According to AFP: “While political anti-Semitism has been pushed to the margins, offensive graffiti, football-terrace chants and hostile stereotypes underline the need to keep battling hate, noted Kadlcik. "Ten years ago I was fighting very strongly against people saying Poland is an anti-Semitic country and so on. I still do that. But I'm really seeing that there's very good soil for this kind of anti-Semitism," Kadlcik warned. [Source: AFP, April 27, 2011]

meeting with a rabbi at Warsaw's Nozyk Synagogue

In the 1990s, about 40 percent of Poles said in a poll that they would prefer not to have Jewish neighbors, compared to 5 percent in the U.S. Even though there are only 8,000 Jews left in Poland today, taxi drivers sometimes complain that country is being taken over by Jews and that many prominent Poles are really Jews who changed their name.

Anti-Semitism still ran high among Polish right wing groups in the 1990s. Literature that came out around the time that Communism collapsed had pictures of “Jews” shooting at the heart of a Roman Catholic priest. In speeches at gatherings, right-wing leaders droned on about the "Jewish Peril." It doesn't seem like there is whole you can blame on them on them now. [Source: Tad Szulc, National Geographic, March 1991]

During the 1990 election, campaign posters for the incumbent Prime Minister Tadeusz Tomaszewski were defaced with swastikas and slogans such as "Jews to the gas chambers." Even Nobel Peace Prize winner and Poland’s President in the early 1990s, Lech Walesa. made comments like "a group of people had seized the country...I am not saying they are all Jews." The head of the Catholic Church in Poland, Cardinal Jozef Glmep, was a supporter of the largest anti-Semitic, pre-war party, the National Democrats. In the 1990s many Catholic priests held firm in the belief that "the Jews killed Jesus."

Jews in Poland have been critical of nationalistic history textbooks that focus on the history of the Polish people and disregard the contribution made by Jews living on Polish soil. About 20,000 copies of Hitler’s "Mein Kampf" sold out in days after its publisher was acquitted on charges of "eulogizing fascism."

Seized Jewish Property in Poland

In 1949, the Polish Communist government deposited about $100 million in assets of Polish Holocaust victim in Swiss bank accounts.

After the collapse of Communism, former property owners who had their property seized by the Nazis and Communists filed lawsuits to try and get their property back. Some of the property belonged to Jews who had their property taken outright or were forced to sell it for ridiculously low prices. But most of it was expropriated by the Communists in the efforts to set up a state where personal property didn't exist.

Large amounts of Jewish property were seized in Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Ukraine. Poland is considering laws to restore religious property, which would include some of the 200 synagogues that one existed, but there are no laws in the making that would try to return Jewish property seized by the Nazis. The property problem gets messy in that some of the property has since been subdivided and sold to ordinary people, with some maybe not knowing the property formally belonged to Jews, whose property was often they only thing they owned.

Polish President Makes Historic Visit to a Synagogue

In 2008, Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski's made a historic visit to synagogue in Poland, marking the first time the head of state of Poland attended religious service at synagogue there. Piotr Kadlcik, the head of the country's Jewish community, told Associated Press that a pre-World War II president, Ignacy Moscicki, visited a synagogue in the 1920s — but that was not for a religious ceremony and he did not spend time with the congregation. [Source: Associated Press, December 22, 2008]

inside Warsaw's Nozyk Synagogue

Associated Press reported: “Poland's president celebrated the start of Hanukkah by visiting Warsaw's main synagogue Sunday, a gesture the city's Jewish community greeted as a historic step in its revival. Lech Kaczynski's visit marked the first time the head of state has attended a religious service at a synagogue in Poland, whose Jewish population was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust and later suffered from communist-era repression. The visit "means we're in a normal country ... a country that treasures that it has citizens of different religions and of different backgrounds," said Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich.

As Kaczynski entered Warsaw's century-old Nozyk synagogue just after sundown, the congregation rose and a group of Jewish children sang "Shalom Aleichem" — "peace be upon you." Wearing a yarmulke, Kaczynski strode to the front of the synagogue, where he sat as a choir sang the Polish national anthem and a song in Yiddish — the language spoken by many of the nearly 3.5 million Jews who lived in Poland before World War II.

A prayer for the Polish nation, written for the occasion of the president's visit, was also read. Kaczynski then lit a cream-colored candle that was placed on a silver menorah. Kaczynski, himself a devout Roman Catholic, has long been a friend to the Jewish community. He visited the synagogue in his former role as mayor of Warsaw; he promoted a planned museum on Jewish history by donating city land to the project; and for the past two years he has marked Hanukkah with candle-lighting celebrations at the presidential palace.

But his appearance in the house of worship — amid those who had survived the Holocaust and children with no memory of it — was greeted as even more meaningful. "This time the president came to visit us," said Rabbi Mati Pawlak, the first native Pole to serve as a rabbi in Poland since the fall of communism. "It shows that relations are getting closer." Moshe Hayman, 47, an Israeli who moved to Poland 15 years ago, said he saw the visit as a historic moment. "For Jews, it symbolizes victory," he said. "I see his presence here as a miracle."

Kaczynski mingled with members of the community, drinking red wine and eating latkes, potato pancakes that are a tradition during the eight-day festival of lights. "I would dare to say that he really enjoyed it," said Kadlcik. "He was talking to people, he was really very open, very friendly."

Pawlak, who is the principal of Warsaw's only Jewish school, credits Kaczynski's support for the Jewish community with creating a spirit of tolerance that has spread to other authorities nationwide. That has brought more support for projects such as the restoration of old Jewish cemeteries and synagogues, and educational programs, he said. "This is a very important visit for the Jewish community of Poland," Pawlak said. Elsewhere, Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz joined a candle-lighting Hanukkah ceremony in front of the Palace of Culture, the city's landmark skyscraper.

Ukrainian Jews

There are about 63,000 Jews in the Ukraine, the 12th largest population of Jews in the world. In 1900 there were about 3 million Jews in the Ukraine. The Holocaust wiped out about 900,000 of them. About 1 million Jews — forced to suppress their religious identities under Soviet rule — left the former Soviet Union for Israel.

In 1987, there was only one working synagogue with no rabbi in Kiev although there were 260,000 Jews there. Since independence in 1991, there has been a revival of Jewish culture and religion. Synagogues opened. Schools were founded and people began openly eating kosher food and participating in Jewish holidays.

Many of the contaminated areas of the Chernobyl disaster were in the Pale of Settlement of Ukraine. Several hundred thousand Jews still lived there at the time of the disaster. Many have had to move. Some children were taken in by Hasidic Jews in Israel as part of the "Children of Chernobyl" program.

Book: “Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova” (published by Routes to Roots Foundation and Yivo Institute of Jewish Research in 1998) is an encyclopedic guide book with maps, photographs and detailed descriptions of Jewish culture. Website: www.rtrfoundation.org.

History of Ukrainian Jews

Ukrainian Jews in the early 19th century

After the destruction of the Khazar empire there were relatively few Jews in Russia and Ukraine. About a half million arrived after the partition of Poland in 1772-95. About four fifths of all Jews at that time lived in the former Polish-Lithuanian state.

In the tsarist era, most Jews in the Russian empire were restricted by law and had to live in the Pale of Settlement, a one-million square kilometer area in present-day Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and eastern Poland. At its height about 5 million Jews lived in the area. As a result of Pale of Settlement policies, towns became controlled by Russians and Jews, while largely illiterate Ukrainian peasants dominated the countryside.

About half the 8,000 residents of the small Ukrainian town of Ster Yelesavetsky were Jews before the Bolshevik Revolution. Most fled during the pogroms of 1918-21 and only about 99 remained when the Nazi captured the town in July, 1941. All of them are believed to have been killed. After the war 80 returned. Between the pogroms and World War II many Jews in Russia and Ukraine said life was fairly normal and they got along with the other ethnic groups that lived around them.

There were about a half million Jews in Ukraine at the time of independence in 1991 but their numbers got smaller every year after that as tens of thousands emigrated, mostly to Israel and the United States. Many of those who have left have been are young, educated, and looking for opportunities. Most of those that have remained behind have been over 40.

Ukrainian Jews Emigrate to Israel to Escape Civil War

The number of Ukrainians arriving in Israel in 2014 was more than double that of the previous year. Many were escaping the civil war in eastern Ukraine that erupted after Russia seized the Crimea. Ruth Eglash wrote in the Washington Post, “The Ukrainian government, which is facing an economic crisis, has little means to help those internally displaced by the war, now about 500,000, according to the United Nations. But groups such as the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), which has spent more than $2 million on resettlement flights in the past year, and the Jewish Agency for Israel, a nonprofit organization that supports Jewish communities around the world, have stepped in to aid those of Jewish heritage. The Israeli government also offered the option to resettle in Israel. [Source:Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, December 25, 2014 ^^]

“Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine who moved to Israel in the 1980s and is chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency, recalled a recent conversation with non-Jews who also fled eastern Ukraine. “They told me it was not fair that Jews had such special privileges,” said Sharansky, who has visited Ukraine several times in recent months. “They said, ‘We, too, lost our properties and are refugees, but they have help and can go to Israel.’ It was weird for me to hear, because when I grew up in Donetsk, being Jewish was like having a mortal disease.” ^^

Jewish kolkhoz in 1930

“Israel, which sees itself as a haven for Jews under threat, has deemed the situation in Ukraine a crisis. In recent months, the immigration process has been eased for Ukrainian Jews. “We recognize that the situation is very hard, people have lost their homes, their property, everything that they built in their lives,” said Israel’s minister for immigrant absorption, Sofa Landver, who accompanied the migrants from Kiev to Tel Aviv on Monday. With an additional $8 million to $10 million in donations, the IFCJ in coordination with the Israeli government plans to sponsor additional flights of Ukrainian Jews to Israel, at least one a month for the next year. “Christians supporting immigration of Jews to Israel is nothing new,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the IFCJ, whose donors are mainly U.S.-based Christians. “Now there are humanitarian reasons to support these people, too.” ^^

“But not all Jews are choosing to leave. The Jewish Agency estimates that at least 200,000 Ukrainians are eligible to migrate to Israel under its “Law of Return,” which allows people with at least one Jewish grandparent to receive citizenship. For Yana Erovteva, 48, who fled Luhansk in August, the decision to leave Ukraine is painful and is one she is not quite ready to make. Her visa for Israel is ready. But her son, Roman, 30, went missing in Luhansk after a fierce battle there one day in the summer. “We’ve looked for him everywhere, on lists of dead people, but his name was not there. We think one of the militia groups took him,” said Erovteva, who now lives in Kiev. “If that is true, perhaps they will let him go.” For now, she said, she can’t give up hope until she knows what happened to him. This leaves her departure for Israel in doubt. In the meantime, several Jewish organizations are helping, providing money to replace winter clothing left behind when she fled to Kiev and paying the rent for her apartment.” ^^

Ukrainian Jews Airlifted to Israel

In December 2014, 226 Ukrainians of Jewish heritage arrived in Israel on a charter flight funded by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a multimillion-dollar Christian charity that supports Israel and Jewish projects around the world. Reporting from Kiev, Ruth Eglash wrote in the Washington Post, “Yulia, Kostiantyn and their daughter, Valerie, don’t look like a typical refugee family. All well dressed — even the Chihuahua, Micky, wearing a chic dog jacket — they might not seem out of place mingling with Kiev’s oligarchs. But the truth is that the family, Ukrainians of Jewish heritage on one side, has lost almost everything since clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian nationalists caused it to flee to Kiev five months ago from the eastern city of Luhansk. [Source: Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, December 25, 2014 ^^]

modern Ukrainian Jews

“Parents, daughter and dog — with 226 other Ukrainian Jews — left Kiev for Israel on a charter flight funded by a Christian-Jewish charity. In Israel, a government agency waited to help them start a new life. The new arrivals joined more than 5,000 Ukrainian Jews who have moved to Israel in the past year, about 1,300 of them from eastern areas claimed by separatists. “Since I was small, my grandmother always told me to hide the fact I was Jewish,” said Kostiantyn, 33, who asked that his family name be withheld out of concern for relatives left behind in the conflict zone. “Now I don’t care what people say about me being Jewish. The only people who have helped here have been the Jews.” ^^

“The family had just reached its goals, Yulia said. Her husband had recently invested $14,000 in a new private dental practice, they finally owned a home, and their daughter had received the puppy — when the conflict erupted last spring. Weeks of rocket fire and no electricity, water or communication soon combined with a growing sense of insecurity as armed militiamen roamed the streets. The family had to leave, Yulia said. “We had just started fulfilling our life’s dreams,” said Yulia, 32, whose lineage is not Jewish. She, her husband, their child and the dog left for Kiev on Aug. 2, hoping that the unrest would soon pass and that they could return home. But as the fighting continued, they realized that going back to Luhansk was impossible. By October, they had used up much of their savings escaping the war zone and then paying rent in Kiev. So when they discovered that Kostiantyn’s Jewish heritage made the family eligible for Israeli citizenship, they opted for stability in Israel over uncertainty in Ukraine. Valerie, 10, held Micky the Chihuahua tightly as she disembarked from the plane a little more than three hours later. She said that moving to a new place for the second time in four months is scary. “I only know a little bit about Israel,” she said. “But I know that I can get a good education here.” ^^ “For those who have chosen to start over in Israel, the move comes with a mixture of emotions. “Of course we are sad to leave Ukraine. We have all our family and friends there,” said Anna Gayduk, 29, who worked as a financial adviser in Luhansk, as she waited for the plane to take off from Kiev for Tel Aviv. “But we are also excited to start a new life in Israel.” Alexander Gayduk, a doctor who also fled Luhansk, arrived with his wife, Anna, and their 11-month-old son, Kirill, in Israel. “I feel lucky that I have the option to leave and start again,” said Gayduk, 32. “I have many friends who are not Jewish and do not have this opportunity to leave like we do.”“ ^^

Russian Jews

There are about 1 million Jews in Russia. Their numbers have been shrinking in recent decades. More than 1 million Jews emigrated from the former Soviet Union to Israel since the late 1980s. Jewish leaders say many more Jews renounced or hid their identity to avoid persecution in the Soviet era and before then. Some are beginning to reclaim their identity.

Most Russian Jews live in urban areas. They are largely assimilated and do not seriously practice Judaism. Moscow has a Jewish population of 200,00 to 250,000 people, of which 15 percent are Sephardic. In the early 2000s, there were three synagogues in Moscow and 40 percent of the children in Jewish schools were Sephardic (Middle Eastern Jews, or descendants of Jews that settled in Spain in the Middle Ages) . Some are Lubavitchers, Jews that believe that Menachem Mendel Scheerson, who died in Brooklyn in 1994, is the messiah.

Russian Jews

The Soviet and Russian governments have always regarded the Jews not only as a distinct religious group but also as a nationality. This attitude persists in the post-Soviet era despite a provision in Article 26 of the 1993 constitution prohibiting the state from arbitrarily determining a person's nationality or forcing a person to declare a nationality. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]

Between World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's Jewish population declined steadily, thanks to emigration, a low birth rate, intermarriage, and concealment of identity. In 1989 the official total was 537,000. Of the number remaining at that point, only about 9,000 were living in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, and, by 1995, only an estimated 1,500 Jews remained in the oblast. The Jews of Russia always have been concentrated overwhelmingly in the larger cities, especially Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Odessa — partly because of the traditional ban, continued from tsarist times, on Jews owning land. Although 83 percent of Jews claimed Russian as their native language in the 1979 census, the Soviet government recognized Yiddish as the national language of the Jewish population in Russia and the other republics. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]

See Separate Articles 1) JEWS IN RUSSIA factsanddetails.com , 2) HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN RUSSIA factsanddetails.com and JEWISH GROUPS IN RUSSIA AND THE FORMER SOVIET UNION factsanddetails.com

Netanyahu Calls for ‘Massive Immigration’ of Europe’s Jews

In 2015, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a "massive immigration" of European Jews to Israel following a deadly shooting near Copenhagen's main synagogue, Associated Press reported: “Netanyahu said that at a time of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, Israel is the only place where Jews can truly feel safe. His comments triggered an angry response from Copenhagen's chief rabbi, Jair Melchior, who said he was "disappointed" by the remarks. "People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism. But not because of terrorism," Melchior told The Associated Press. "If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island." [Source: Associated Press, February 15, 2015 ^/^]

“Netanyahu issued his call during the weekly meeting of his Cabinet, which approved a previously scheduled $46 million plan to encourage Jewish immigration from France, Belgium and Ukraine — countries where large numbers of Jews have expressed interest in moving to Israel. France and Belgium have experienced deadly attacks on their Jewish communities in in recent years, most recently an attack in Paris last month that killed four Jews at a kosher market. Ukraine, meanwhile, is in the midst of a conflict between government troops and Russian-backed separatists. "This wave of attacks is expected to continue," Netanyahu told his Cabinet. "Jews deserve security in every country, but we say to our Jewish brothers and sisters, Israel is your home." ^/^

“Netanyahu's comments came amid a tight re-election campaign ahead of March 17 elections. Seeking a third consecutive term, Netanyahu has focused his campaign on Israel's security needs, repeatedly warning voters about the many threats from Islamic radicals throughout the region. There was no immediate reaction from his chief opponents. Netanyahu spoke at a time of rising tensions with European countries over Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured territories claimed by the Palestinians. Some Israelis believe such criticism has helped fuel anti-Semitism. ^/^

“European leaders, however, have insisted that their criticism has no bearing on the treatment of their own Jewish communities. When Netanyahu rushed to France following the deadly supermarket standoff and urged the country's Jews to move to Israel, French leaders signalled their unhappiness. ^/^

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu Wikipedia, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Reuters, AP, AFP and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2024

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