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What Now? Jews and the Ukrainian Revolution 2014
Apr 24 2014

THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2014 | 7pm

Click HERE to watch the video.

Josef Zissels, Vaad, Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Ukraine; David Fishman (Moderator), Jewish Theological Seminary

“Your certainty of the growth of anti-Semitism in Ukraine...does not correspond to the actual facts. It seems you have confused Ukraine with Russia, where Jewish organizations have noticed growth in anti-Semitic tendencies last year.”
– March 26, “Open Letter of Ukrainian Jews to Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin”

What is the political situation in Ukraine today? What is the new Ukrainian government’s attitude towards its Jews and minorities? On March 26, leaders of the Ukrainian Jewish community published an open letter in The New York Times disputing Putin’s claims of high levels of anti-Semitism and accusing him of using these claims to destabilize the region. But others are expressing deep concerns about recent anti-Semitic violence in Ukraine, as well as about the Svoboda party, a junior partner in the protest movement, which is overtly anti-Semitic, and some would argue, neo-Nazi.

Josef Zissels, the preeminent leader of Ukraine’s Jewish community, joined in conversation with David Fishman for a look at the political situation in Ukraine today, Ukraine’s relationship to Russia and the EU, and what Ukrainian Jews and minorities can expect from the new government.

This event is co-sponsored by COJECO.


Josef Zissels is Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress, and Chairman of the Vaad, or the Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Ukraine. From the early 1970’s, Zissels worked with Jewish and general democratic underground movements in the USSR, and in 1978 was arrested and sentenced to three years in a high security penal colony “for slander discrediting the Soviet government and social order”. Among the materials of accusation were Zionist documents. In 1984, Zissels was sentenced again to another three years. Zissels is a board member of the European Council of Jewish Communities, the European and World Jewish Congresses, and the World Zionist Organization. He has served as the chairman of the Vaad since 1991 and as the Executive Vice President of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine since 1999. In 2002, he was elected as Chairman of the General Council of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress by its constituent congress in Moscow, Russia, and was awarded the Prize for Freedom (HIAS) in 1991, the Order of Merit, 3rd Degree, and the Order For Courage, 1st Degree (Ukraine).

David E. Fishman (Moderator) is professor of Jewish History at The Jewish Theological Seminary, and serves as director of Project Judaica, a Jewish-studies program based in Moscow that is sponsored jointly by JTS and Russian State University for the Humanities. Fishman is the author of numerous books and articles on the history and culture of East European Jewry, including Russia's First Modern Jews (New York University Press) and The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture (University of Pittsburgh Press). He has taught at universities in Israel, Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania, and serves on the editorial boards of Jewish Social Studies and Polin.

Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy (Interpreter) is Ann Whitney Olin Professor and Chair of the Slavic Department at Barnard College, Director of Graduate Studies in the Columbia University Slavic Department, and former Director of the Harriman Institute. She has published extensively on Soviet and post-Soviet literature and popular culture, Pushkin, Russian ballet, Russian émigré literature and culture and the future of regional studies. She is currently working on a book entitled Nabokov and His Enemies: Terms of Engagement. She is recipient of the 2011 AATSEEL (American Association of Teachers of Slavic Languages and Literature) Award for Outstanding Service to the Profession and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.