Rabbi Meir Bruk: A Positive Mood from Ukraine

Rabbi Meir Bruk, the leader of the Russian-speaking Jewish community at the Jewish Center of Brighton Beach in New York, outlines several important points in the present situation in Ukraine and Russia and its relation to Jews and Israel. This article is reprinted with his permission. The Russian-language article originally appeared in meirbruk.net and was reprinted by NovaUkraina.org.

Rabi MeirAs I can see from America, there is an obviously negative 'side effect' of Russian propaganda. Objective analysts have explained long ago that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's media hysteria of false propaganda unleashed upon Ukraine was developed for purely internal goals—to protect Putin from the exile scenario similar to the one that happened to [former Ukrainian president Viktor] Yanukovych, as well as to offer the Russian people 'symbolic' achievements such as 'Crimea is ours' so the people of Russia wouldn't feel so distressed about the reality of the Putin regime’s ineffective policies. The direct target of propaganda is the average citizen of Russia who uncritically 'swallows' this whole collection of 'special effects'.

However, Russian propaganda is of no benefit for Russian-speakers elsewhere in the world, in particular in America, Israel, Germany, etc. Moreover, it leads to a purposeless hazard. Russian-speakers who live abroad and got accustomed to relying solely on Russian TV channels endanger themselves to catching a foreign disease, and they should realize this in order to avoid becoming pawns in the implementation of alien interests.

So I urge all the readers who have escaped the Soviet world not to drag themselves back into foreign propaganda battles.

There is much debate about whether it's good that the billionaire businessman [Petro] Poroshenko became the President of Ukraine. Everything has its pros and cons. I'd rather focus on an important positive point.

The biggest problems in world history were caused by leaders who suffered from an inferiority complex and compensated for their little man complex on the backs of citizens whose leaders they became. The most odious leaders with complexes were Hitler and Stalin. And now we have, in particular, Putin (a 'minor' KGB officer) and Yanukovych (‘a shabby’ jailbird). Former petty criminals intensively plundered the country. Former 'minor' KGB officers are 'tightening the screws'.

In contrast, the fact that the successful businessman Poroshenko holds the president’s office is quite positive as it implies his ability to achieve significant success in life. This positive internal attitude is quite valuable.

Many have noticed that Vadim Rabinovich, a Jew, received more votes in the presidential elections than the far right leaders [Oleh] Tiahnybok and [Dmytro] Yarosh. This might signal that we should not be afraid of radical figures in Ukraine. They do not have a global impact, but instead play a catalytic role sparking the passions of the Ukrainian people, awakening them from hibernation.

The antisemitism card in Ukraine and Russia is irrelevant. In comparison, antisemitism in Western Europe is tied to the activities of Arab Muslims living in those countries and features anti-Israel rhetoric. This point is of no interest to citizens of Russia and Ukraine. Also, Ukrainians see the ‘Moskals’ (Russians) as their main threat, and the main subjects of Russian propaganda are the ‘Banderivtsi’ (Ukrainian nationalists). In the context of this confrontation Jews are not the focus of attention. So there is no ground for special worries about Jews living today in Ukraine and Russia.

Yet many Jews are tightly bound to old resentments towards Ukraine in response to the Khmelnytskyi and Petliura pogroms and for the trauma of the Holocaust. These resentments are understandable, but they shouldn’t be so eagerly applied to the current story. Ukraine now has the opportunity to choose new scenarios for its development.

Ukraine is already actively shedding its Soviet heritage. Ukraine is trying to cleanse itself of corruption. And Ukraine finds much in common with contemporary Israel, which offers a chance for an interesting and promising relationship in the near future. Also, Ukraine is the home of Jewish spiritual shrines, such as the tombs of the greatest Hasidic tzaddiks. In place of old grudges Ukraine and Israel will perhaps find new and significant pathways to cooperation.

The potential of Jews in Israel is enormous, so Israeli companies and start-ups could help develop Ukraine’s potential as it sets forth in a new direction. Such a scenario would be quite promising and would bring a lot of light into our world both in terms of technology and spirituality, giving Israel an opportunity to show itself as a source of light and blessing.



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Translated from the Russian by Miriam Bunimovich