Volodymyr Zelensky
Volodymyr Zelensky REUTERS

US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, Elan Carr, said it was “stunning and unprecedented” that the Jewish identity of Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky played no role in the elections and that Ukraine is the only country other than Israel to have both a Jewish President and a Jewish Prime Minister. Carr made his remarks yesterday during a panel on Combating Antisemitism at the Kyiv Jewish Forum organized by Boris Lozhkin, President of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine.

The participants of the forum shared their mutual concerns about the new threat of antisemitism masquerading as anti-Zionism. They also discussed potential strategies to counter antisemitism on the Internet as well as the need to act as a united front in combating this “vile disease.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, who took part in the panel, stressed that fighting antisemitism cannot just be a national effort but an international one. “The national approach doesn't work anymore,” Klimkin said. The foreign minister underscored the importance of Israel’s security for the Middle-East and the world at large, and he promised that Ukraine would never compromise over it.

Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Lion commended Ukraine for its strong friendship with Israel. “With or without a Jewish president, Ukraine today is a strong ally of the state of Israel,” he told the audience.

President of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, lamented that the younger generation today has no clear understanding of what happened during the Holocaust. He also warned that the Internet has been a significant tool in the modern world for spreading the venom of antisemitism. Lauder called upon Israel to take a more proactive role in Jewish life around the world, referring to Israel’s obligation to reach out and protect Jewish communities as a matter of national policy. Lauder had been awarded the Andrey Sheptytsky Medal for his role in opening Ukraine’s first Jewish school and for his continued efforts in further promoting Jewish education throughout the country.

In his keynote speech, Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy, called on the new Ukrainian government to confront the legacy of the Holocaust and spoke of programs to memorialize the Holocaust victims, a sensitive topic for many Ukrainians. Gershman also said that Jewish history has to be seen as part of a common national history and that the work of memorializing this past is integral to the forging of a common national identity.

Dr. Michael Mirilashvili, President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and who extolled the forum for its great work, welcomed the new government’s decision to join the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and to adopt its working definition of antisemitism as a guideline for national policy.

Additional participants of the forum were Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, Pavlo Rozenko; CEO and Executive Vice President of the World Jewish Congress, Robert Singer; Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Antisemitism and Director of International Jewish Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, Andrew Baker; Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Yuriy Lutsenko and other distinguished leaders.