Monday, May 5, 2014
Odessa’s Jewish community is prepared to evacuate should the violence in the western Ukrainian city get significantly worse, this according to community leaders.
Odessa, a port city of more than 1 million, is home to some 30,000 million Jews, down from nearly 40 percent of the city’s population before the Holocaust.
The Jerusalem Post reports:
Running street battles between pro-Russian and nationalist forces claimed dozens of lives in the Black Sea port this weekend, culminating in the burning of dozens of pro-Russian protesters in the city’s trade union building on Friday evening.
The Odessa bloodshed came on the same day that Kiev launched its biggest push yet to reassert its control over separatist areas in the east, hundreds of kilometers away, where armed pro-Russian rebels have proclaimed a “People’s Republic of Donetsk.”
Rabbi Refael Kruskal, head of the Tikva organization, which runs a network of orphanages and schools and provides social services to the city’s elderly – several of the wounded from Friday’s clashes were Jews, and the community is taking all necessary precautions.
“Over the weekend we closed the [Great Choral] Synagogue,” Kruskal said. “We took all the students out of the center of the city where the violence was, because we were worried it was going to spread. We sent a text message to everybody in the community on WhatsApp that they should stay at home over the weekend.”
While the synagogue, which is located close to the site of Friday’s clashes, was reopened Sunday morning, Kruskal said he planned on closing it again later in the day.
There are a number of evacuation plans, ranging from relocating within the city to sending community members to Kishinev, two-and-a-half hours away in neighboring Moldova.
The Jewish community, he added, is hunkering down and trying to ride out the storm.
President Obama has made it clear the American military is off limits to help stop the deteriorating situation in eastern Ukraine. Russian President Vladamir Putin is in total control.