Ex-Soviet Jews in Brooklyn Stand against Putin Even as They Struggle with Ukrainian Identity

Feb. 16 2022

As Russian troops gather at the Ukrainian border, Jewish immigrants who fled Soviet Ukraine are speaking out against Vladimir Putin. Even the Russian-speaking Jews who oppose Russian aggression, however, do not necessarily feel solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Raina Weinstein notes that the present moment has served as a reckoning for some, who recall the reasons they fled.

As emigres from the Ukrainian SSR, these refugees never lived in an independent Ukrainian state. Under Soviet rule, their passports identified their nationality as “Jewish”—rather than Ukrainian—unlike their non-Jewish neighbors, who were not subject to the anti-Semitic discrimination of the Soviet regime.

The distinction between Jewish and Ukrainian still plays a role in the self-conception of Ukrainian-born Jews. Many members of this community do not identify as Ukrainian but express political support for Ukraine against Russia and President Putin.

Irina Rakhlis, a Manhattan Beach resident, was born in Kyiv but does not identify as Ukrainian. She describes herself as a “Russian-speaking Jew,” whose upbringing in Kyiv was more culturally Soviet than Ukrainian. In Kyiv, Ms. Rakhlis studied Ukrainian as a second language in school. She recalls that her Ukrainian teacher discriminated against Jewish students.

Her grandparents told her stories of pogroms in their childhood shtetls—often carried out by popular Ukrainian figures. “I remember my parents saying, ‘it’s a Ukrainian hero, but it’s really a person who slaughtered Jews,’” she says.

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Read more at New York Sun

More about: American Jewry, anti-Semitsm, Soviet Jewry, War in Ukraine

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror