More than 500 leaders from Israel, the United States, Europe and Ukraine participated in the inaugural Kyiv Jewish Forum, organised by the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine (JCU) on 5-7 May, 2019. The success of the event, the first international Jewish-interest conference in Ukraine, illustrates the renaissance of the Ukrainian Jewish community and its role in the global Jewry.
The significance of the Forum for Ukraine and its international partners was evident in the high levels of participation from top-level officials and Jewish leaders. The Forum’s guests included the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, the President of the World Jewish Congress Ronald S. Lauder, the US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combatting Anti-Semitism Elan Carr, the President of the National Endowment for Democracy Carl Gershman, the President of the Commonwealth Jewish Council Lord Mendelsohn, the renowned Israeli human right activist Natan Sharansky and many Ministers and members of Parliament from around the world.
The event was also attended by the Patriarch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and by the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epiphanius.
“We felt the time was ripe to re-connect the Ukrainian Jewish community with the global Jewry by creating an inclusive international discussion platform in Kyiv. We are extremely proud of the outcome of this inaugural event and would like thank all our partners for making this forum a success” said Boris Lozhkin, President of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress.
The Kyiv Jewish Forum was organised by the JCU in partnership with the World Jewish Congress, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, the European Jewish Congress, the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter, the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC), the Group for Inter-Parliamentary relations with the State of Israel of the Ukrainian Parliament, and TIS Group.
Ukraine, the cradle of Hassidism, holds a special place in the history of Judaism. Before World War II, the Jewish community in Ukraine was one of the largest in the world and made up more than 15% of the population of the country. A large part of the Jewish population of the United States and Israel originates from Ukraine.
Anti-Semitism was a central theme of the Forum. Many speakers expressed very deep concerns about the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States and in Europe. “The fight against anti-Semitism is the number one priority of the JCU” declared Boris Lozhkin.
WJC President, Ronald S. Lauder, said that “Jews should be able to live in peace without fear” - a sentiment echoed throughout the conference. During the Forum, Lauder was presented with the Andrey Sheptytsky Medal for deepening relations between Ukrainians and Jews.
US’s Elan Carr praised Ukraine’s democratic progress, describing as “extraordinary” the fact that the Jewishness of a winning presidential candidate was not seen as an issue by Ukrainians in the recent elections, and that Ukraine was the only country in the world with Israel to have a Jewish President-elect and a Jewish Prime Minister. Carr also underscored the US commitment to support and empower Ukraine to do even better on this path and emphasised the need for Jews and non-Jews to stand united in the fight against all forms of anti-Semitism.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pavlo Klimkin, reiterated the full support of the Government of Ukraine vis-à-vis Israel and said that “we can never compromise on the security of Israel”.
With Ukraine re-emerging as a centre of Jewish renaissance, the JCU looks forward to continuing to host the Kyiv Jewish Forum for many years to come.
Find the full photo report available for downloading here.