— Jenny Mathers (@jgmaber) February 28, 2014
Eli Lake addresses it:
Ukraine has never been a very good country for the Jews. The 19th and early 20th centuries were marred by pogroms against Jewish communities. Under Soviet occupation, many Jews that stayed in Ukraine faced the state sponsored anti-Semitism of the Communist system. More recently, a few neo-Nazi groups have openly participated in the popular uprising that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych baring at times swastikas.
Nonetheless, leaders of Ukraine’s small Jewish community (experts estimate there are between 80,000 and 350,000 Jews in Ukraine) say they are more worried about anti-Semitic attacks from Russian operatives and Yanukovych loyalists than the nationalists who gathered in Kiev and other cities to oust him.
Marc Tracy’s take:
Both sides are using Ukraine’s Jewish community as a symbolic pawn, in which the credibility of the other side can be diminished by accusations of anti-Semitism. And that is remarkable. In a sense, it’s even laudatory. Babi Yar—in which, outside Kiev, over just two days Nazi Einsatzgruppen shot more than 33,000 Jews—was barely 70 years ago. 900,000 Ukrainian Jews, more than half the country’s pre-war Jewish population, were murdered in the Holocaust. This was in no small part because occupying Germans were able to secure the cooperation of homegrown anti-Semites, who had been carrying out pogroms in parts of their country that at the time were a designated region for Jews to settle in for decades preceding World War Two.
He bets that “it would be better for Ukraine’s Jews for Ukraine to retain its sovereignty and territorial integrity”:
If Ukraine is divided along ethnic lines, then ethnic minorities—most of all the Muslim-majority Tatars but also, potentially, Jews—could find themselves the odd peoples out.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Veidlinger points to the history showing that “before Crimea was an ethnic Russian stronghold, it was a potential Jewish homeland.”