Ukrainian Jewish leaders: Chaos driving aliyah

Chaos and criminal activity in eastern Ukraine are causing anxiety and increased Jewish emigration, according to Ukrainian Jewish leaders.

“There is an increase in emigration by Jews from Ukraine, with 300 people immigrating to Israel in March alone,” Josef Zissels, chairman of the Vaad Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine, said on May 16. “This is not the result of any anti-Semitism but of anxiety and fear from criminal activity and chaos.

“There are bandits, men with rifles, who are patrolling the streets of some cities in eastern Ukraine and this is causing many Jews and non-Jews to want to leave,” Zissels said.

But Zissels rejected recent reports that Jews were preparing to evacuate Odessa in southern Ukraine en masse.

Alexander Gayder, CEO of the Reform movement in Ukraine, said a growing number of Reform Jews in Kiev were contemplating immigration because of the political upheavals.

Ukraine will hold presidential elections on Sunday, May 25, the first since the ouster from power in February of the government of President Viktor Yanukovych. — jta