Challenging Times in Odessa
Historically, April is a special month for Ukraine. Liberation Day, celebrated on April 10, marked the day Odessa was liberated from the Nazis in 1944. And although tense times are upon us, we make a point to celebrate this joyous day.
As the global community knows, following the annexation of the Crimea, pro-Russian protests and activities intensified in the eastern parts of Ukraine. There has been an upsurge in violence in these areas following the occupation of administrative buildings and other important centers in Donetsk and other cities in Eastern Ukraine. Luckily, Odessa remains relatively calm; however there have been acts of anti-Semitism.
A couple of weeks ago, anti-Semitic graffiti appeared on a Holocaust memorial, tombstones located in a Jewish cemetery and on homes. The head Rabbi of Odessa, Abraham Wolf, responded to this event saying,
“Everything that has happened we perceive with indignation, and we believe that these actions are aimed not only at the aggravation of interethnic relations, but at the creation of a negative image of everything happening in the country. We have repeatedly stated that the citizenship of Jews, as well as every citizen of Ukraine, is determined by their personal choice and not nationality. Whoever it was at this time, he achieved the opposite goals. Numerous words of support come from different people to our community. We thank them for their support and the manifestation of brotherly love to our community. We do not know the masterminds and perpetrators of these abominations. We do not conduct investigations and are confident that the professionals have to do it. And we hope that these people will be found and punished. And the Almighty bless all those who want peace and understanding.”
Along with his statement, Rabbi Wolf, together with the commander of the Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense (UPDF), Colonel Valery Zagorodnii painted over the graffiti as a sign of their support and loyalty to minorities in Ukraine. It was an incredible sign of solidarity.
The Rabbi’s sentiment is shared by the Jewish community of Odessa, who are praying for peace in our country. Young professionals in Odessa organized The Manifest Of Peace, which supports our beautiful city by hosting cultural events and strives to build a united Ukraine.
With the celebration of Odessa Liberation Day, as well as the Passover holiday, the residents of Odessa are living their normal lives, but are also constantly monitoring the situation in the country. Passover distracted the Jewish community from the tension with joyous sederim and community events. The Jews of Odessa gladly remembered the story of exodus from Egypt, and hoped that we too can emerge from this challenging situation.