On the eve of Passover near a synagogue in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine last week, as members of the local Jewish community emerged from the synagogue heading to the Passover seder, they were approached by three masked men. The masked men, dressed in military uniform bearing the Russian flag but without insignia, tried to distribute leaflets, supposedly signed by Denis Pushilin, governor of Donetsk People's Republic.
The leaflet declared: "As the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported the Bandera Ukrainian Nationalist movement in Kiev, and are hostile to the Orthodox Donetsk Republic and its citizens, the General Staff of the Republic of Donetsk has hereby decided: All Jewish citizens over the age of 16, residing in the sovereign Donetsk republic are to report to the Acting Commissioner for Nationalities till May 3, 2014. You should have on you cash in the amount of $50 for registration fees, passports to mark religious affiliation in, documents proving the family composition, as well as documents on all owned property. In case of evading registration, the guilty will be denied citizenship and expelled forcibly from the republic; their property will be confiscated."
When the members of the community refused to take these leaflets, the men began to harass them near the synagogue and only left the place after the community members threatened to call the police.
The Jewish community of Donetsk considers this act a provocation. In turn, Governor Dennis Pushilin has denied any connection to the leaflet. Amidst current political tensions, different forces are trying to take advantage of playing the "Jewish card” in these circumstances, and this is just another disturbing example of such incitement.
This episode demonstrates only too well the uncertain position in which the Jews of Ukraine find themselves today.
Despite the uncertainty, The Jewish Agency continues to operate in the country as it always has. Since the onset of this conflict, our educational and cultural programs for local Jewish communities have continued, just as our aliyah assistance is in increasing demand; in response, we have had to send in additional staff and devote additional resources to accommodate accordingly, and we appreciate the support of our partners for enabling us to do that. While there is no serious political force behind this leaflet, in this time of anarchy and as all parties try to score political points and even use the "Jewish card", the situation is quite tense and we have reasons to be concerned about growing anti-Semitism nonetheless.