Lviv Mayor: France More Anti-Semitic Than Ukraine

At Jewish learning conference, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi asserts that France has larger anti-Semitism problem than his country.

Cynthia Blank ,

Ukraine violence
Ukraine violence

Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of the Ukrainian city Lviv told attendees at a Jewish learning conference that France has a bigger anti-Semitism problem than his country.

Ukraine has been suffering a period of instability since a revolution erupted last year, ending in February with the removal of president Viktor Yanukovych, who was accused of rampant corruption. 

Russia, taking advantage of Ukraine's internal unrest, seized control of the Crimea, annexing it in March. Thousands have since died in the conflict that ensued after the annexation. 

Lviv is considered a stronghold of Ukrainian nationalism, as well as the birthplace of the virulently anti-Russia and far-right Svoboda political party. Russia has accused Svoboda and other Ukrainian nationalist parties of unleashing a brutal wave of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, though some dispute the factuality of this. 

Indeed though, despite the Jewish community being careful to remain neutral in the conflict, anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise in Ukraine since the political upheaval began, including stabbings, graffiti, attacks on Jewish-owned businesses, and the firebombing of cars and synagogues. 

As a result of the upswing in anti-Semitic violence amidst ongoing unrest in the country, an emergency hotline has been established to help Ukraine's Jewish Community report such incidents. 

Andriy Sadovyi’s party, Self Reliance, came in third in Ukraine’s parliamentary election last month. Sadovyi, who led the party, declined to become a lawmaker, instead remaining committed to his role as mayor of Lviv. He has recently emerged as one of Ukraine’s most popular politicians. 

Sadovyi made the assertion about anti-Semitism in his country on Thursday at the opening of the Lviv'v first Limmud FSU Jewish learning conference. Some 600 Jews attended the conference. 

“There is a lot of talk of ant-Semitism in Ukraine,” Sadovyi told media at the event. “But the truth is, anti-Semitism is much more prevalent in places like France and Germany.”

Anti-Semitism is also certainly on the rise in France, with the Service for the Protection of the Jewish community of France (SPCJ) reporting in September that there was a 91% increase in hate crimes against Jews in the first half of 2014. 

The founder of Limmud FSU, Chaim Chesler spoke with the Jewish Telgraphic Agency about the importance of Ukrainian Jews working together with the government. 

“The contacts that we are establishing with this up-and-coming politician in Ukraine and his counterparts elsewhere in the region in our Limmud conferences will benefit, in the long run, not only local communities but the Jewish people and Israel,” he said. 

On Thursday, attendees of Limmud FSU conference in Lviv also observed a minute of silence in honor of Ukrainian soldiers who had died in the conflict.