Who Are Ukraine’s Jews?

The Fellowship  |  February 28, 2022

Yael Eckstein at Babi Yar memorial in Ukraine
(Photo: IFCJ)

As the world watches, the people of Ukraine face uncertain times. But as The Fellowship and our faithful friends continue to help, God’s children who live in Ukraine have hope. Writing for The Times of Israel, Gabe Friedman explains who Ukraine’s Jewish people are, where they live, and what they are going through:

Despite centuries of antisemitism and pogroms that condensed Jewish populations into pockets of Eastern Europe, such as the Pale of Settlement, which included a large portion of modern Ukraine — and was known for its shtetls, and as the setting of “Fiddler on the Roof” — it is estimated that over 1.5 million Jews lived in what is now Ukraine on the eve of World War II.

Approximately 1 million of those Jews were killed in the Holocaust, but a 1989 census estimated that close to half a million lived in Ukraine in 1989, before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Under Soviet rule, Jews were persecuted and additionally denied the right to emigrate, forced to hide much of their religious practice in a society rife with antisemitism.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, close to 80% of those Jews left for Israel and elsewhere. Many of those who remained are elderly and poor, and others are disconnected from their Jewish heritage, perhaps from the decades of persecution…

Most of Ukraine’s Jews live in the country’s largest cities, but some, especially elderly ones, live in smaller cities and scattered impoverished villages…