Ukraine, Ukrainian Jewry, and the European Union

2011/1/1 23:36:34

Bishop Paul Peter Jesep says that Ukraine’s Jewish population has been overlooked and underappreciated. He adds that the resilience and determination of Ukraine’s Jews has contributed to a modern, vibrant, independent Ukraine.

By Paul Peter Jesep*


Ukraine’s Jews are likely to play a key role in advancing the country's integration into the European Union. This membership will protect Ukraine’s sovereignty, stabilize its economy, and promote greater government reform to combat corruption, protect civil liberties, and further a national consciousness that celebrates the contributions of all citizens.  It also means that Ukraine’s northern neighbor will have less control over its political and economic destiny.   


Ihor Kolomoisky, Ukrainian entrepreneur and president of the European Jewish Council, said in a December 2010 interview that "it is possible that it will be the Ukrainian Jewry that will become the driving force that will lead Ukraine into the European community."   


In addition to protecting an independent Ukraine, membership in the European Union will bring together Diaspora Ukrainians throughout the continent.  It nurtures Ukraine’s national reawakening.  This cannot occur if it does not include all Ukrainians regardless of faith. 


Membership in the European Union comes with legal, social, and political obligations of a modern nation that Ukraine can more easily meet than its northern neighbor that is highly reluctant to pursue or even explore.          


Historically, the contributions of Ukrainian Jews have been overlooked and under appreciated.  Ukraine has one of the largest, if not the largest number of Jewish heritage sites in Europe.  Although 1,500 have been officially identified, some scholars believe that the number far exceeds this figure. 


Despite the murder of close to two million Ukrainians of the Jewish faith during World War II Ukraine is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe.  Ukrainian Jews have given their homeland a character, resilience, and determination that have contributed to a modern, vibrant, independent Ukraine.  It merits greater scholarly exploration.    


January 27th, as designated by the United Nations, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Ukrainians, regardless of religion, must remember sisters and brothers murdered in the Nazi death camps.  In doing so, no one should forget or take for granted the significant contributions of Ukrainian Jews to independent Ukraine that exists today.        


*Bishop Paul Peter Jesep is a New York lawyer and the designated United States spokesperson by His Beatitude Metropolitan Myfodii of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine.  The views expressed here are personal.  He may be reached at


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