Monday, March, 24, 2014, 17:12. Russian Original Text by O LemenovMosche Reuven Asman is the Chief Rabbi Hasidic Jews (Chabad – Lubavich Movement), Ukrainian Congress of Jewish Religious Communities. Born in Leningrad, he lived in Israel after his marriage, and then worked as an assistant Rabbi of Toronto teaching Russian-speaking Jews. He then returned to Ukraine. He is extraordinarily intelligent, has personally met many politicians and is also acquainted with many successful business men and women in Ukraine and Russia. During the course of the past few months Moshe Asman has commented on the absence of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, on lies regarding alleged aggression towards Jews as well as on a number of provocations that have been created to mislead the observers of Maidan movement regarding the true motivations behind the revolution in Ukraine. In a conversation with Ukrainska Pravda, Moshe Asman shares his wisdom on life, conveyed with restraint and a willingness to share his thoughts. Recently Moshe Asman’s words were misinterpreted. Israel’s Haaretz published inflammatory information indicating that Moshe Asman called on all Jews to leave Kyiv. We had an opportunity to speak to the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine on topics that touched both politics as well as society in the Capital building of Brodsky Synagogue, which he incidentally helped return to the Kyiv community.
– How do you assess the situation in Ukraine?
– The current situation in Ukraine is tense. I, as a Rabbi and a leader of a large community, I pray to God for peace and security of Ukraine, so that there was no war, and so that this seemingly hopeless situation is miraculously resolved.
It is now the Eve of Festival of Purim (celebrating the rescue of the Jews of the Persian Empire from Haman’s troops: this year was a day of celebration is 16 March) – Then, the historical situation was that a nation was threatened and our struggle with the prayers turned the course of events in an instant.
Today we pray again. I have called upon the Jewish communities in Ukraine and Russia to pray together so that there is no war and no bloodshed.
– Who, in your opinion, has come to power (in Ukraine), taking into account the distorted view of Russian Media regarding “Nazis” and “Bandera-supporters”?
– Look, as I see it, the Ukrainian people have taken power. I am not going to talk about what happened before and I will not discuss it. The Ukrainian people have refused to live as they have lived. The Ukrainian people are diverse. Those that were part of Maidan Movement are not uniform, though most are ordinary people. There are also supporters of right- and left-wing movements, but all Ukrainian people.
– But Russian media insist that the individuals that have taken power in Ukraine through an anti-Constitutional coup d’etat are “Nazis” and “Bandera-supporters”.
– I am not going to comment on the origin of this information. The Jewish community does not directly take part in political events. However the Jews as citizens do participate in the process of rebuilding the new Ukraine.
Last week the Head of Ukrainian Jewish Congress, Vadim Rabinovich, and I have contacted all Rabbis of all Ukrainian regions and enquired regarding any instances of alleged anti-Semitism. Not one Rabbi reported anything out of the ordinary.
– So who is currently in charge of Ukraine? “Nazis”, “Bandera-supporters” or Nationalists?
– I would like to make a distinction between the Nationalists and the “Nazis”. These are two separate and frequently confused groups. A nationalist is somebody who loves their country and its people. A “Nazi” is somebody who hates other countries and their people. Historically, it has happened that Nationalists and “Nazis” were one and the same. However, the leaders of the Ukrainian Nationalist Movements (such as Right Sector and Svoboda) assure that this is not the case in their organisations. Let us hope that they will stand by their words.
There is no anti-Semitism in Ukraine, as such. However, I believe that groups interested in promoting such beliefs could find a way provoke and support such thoughts. I therefore address everyone, there is common grief and Ukraine must be rebuilt from the ruins. It is our common problem and goal. Let us not exaggerate and focus on the Jewish or anti-Semite subject.
I believe that through the capable and correct application of its people Ukraine can become a prosperous European country. Let us not search for the guilty – let us find a use for everybody. The Jews, for example, can make a contribution.
– And what about Maidan and the relevant mutual assistance?
– I am pleased that I could help and ten wounded from Maidan who could be taken to Israel for treatment: Everyone would be aware of the high standard of medical treatment there. Incidentally in the case of one person, a bullet that could not be found in Ukraine was found by Israeli doctors. This particular person was wounded several times but one bullet was not found and the damaged tissue was causing pain.
Several of the wounded who have undergone treatment in Israel are now on their way home. Two heavily wounded people have had surgery. These are real acts of mutual assistance: As it is said “By saving one person, we can save the World”.
I have seen the volunteers of different nationalities collecting charity funds for their cause and have observed how they worked. I have seen how happy they were that they are part of bigger mission, to save their fellow men. It is on such sentiments as well as on good deeds that we need to build our new relationships (in Ukraine).
– What, in your opinion, needs to be done in Ukraine as a matter of priority?
– There are seven basic commandments that all human beings should obey. They include, amongst others “thou shall not kill”, “thou shall not steal”. But there is also a commandment regarding having fair courts of law. And this (for Ukraine) is a problem.
Until we establish fair and impartial courts of law, where bribes are not taken or given, the society will be unable to function. I have previously spoken about the fact that this is one of the biggest challenges in Ukraine. In fact it is a general problem not only in Ukraine, but on the entire territory of the former USSR, including in Russia.
Until this issue is resolved, there will be no justice.
– How strong is the bond formed between various nationalities as the result of their movement against the autocracy of the former President Yanukovych?
– You know, there were two things that brought people together: The struggle against the corrupt system and the desire to prevent a war.
– What advice would you give to the Ukrainians and Jews wishing to live comfortably on shared territory?
To build a normal country, there is no need to seek who to blame, there is no need to look for enemies. Normally people immediately look for external enemies, but the search needs to start with a self assessment.
The country has excellent land, black earth. Why can’t this productive land be made prosperous? I have heard Ukrainians, the Ukrainian Intelligentsia say: “Why is it that in Israel the crop grown on stone is gathered three times per year? And in Ukraine with the land that could feed all Europe, the crop is gathered once per year?
This is the question I with conclude with ….
Translated by A Vavrina
Chabad, also known as Habad, Lubavitch, and Chabad-Lubavitch is a Hasidic movement. Chabad adheres to the Orthodox practice of Judaism. Founded in Russia in 1775, Chabad is today one of the world’s largest and best-known Hasidic movements. Its official headquarters are currently located in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York. Organizationally, it is the largest Jewish religious organization in the world today.
The original text is on Ukrainska Pravda