75 years after Babi Yar, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder praises ‘miracle of Jewish revival in Ukraine’

October 1, 2016 Agencies
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 On the 75th anniversary of the murder more than 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar, leaders of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) were in Ukraine to take part in events to remember the atrocity committed by Nazi Germany on 29/30 September 1941 near Kyiv.

Ronald S. Lauder visits the 'Babi Yar: History and Destiny' exhibition in Kyiv on Wednesday, 28 September 2016 (credit: Shahar Azran)

Ronald S. Lauder visits the ‘Babi Yar: History and Destiny’ exhibition in Kyiv on Wednesday, 28 September 2016 (credit: Shahar Azran)

Speaking at a commemorative dinner on Wednesday night, Lauder said: “Babi Yar is one of the most infamous pieces of ground in the entire world. Tens of thousands of our people were killed there for only one reason: because they were Jewish.” WJC CEO Robert Singer was scheduled to address the official commemorative event at Babi Yar.

In his dinner speech, Ronald S. Lauder highlighted the fact that Ukrainians had collaborated in the German effort to exterminate the Jews of Kyiv. “While Babi Yar was organized by the Nazis, there were willing helpers in the Ukrainian militia. This happened all across Europe. In almost every occupied country, local people helped the Germans round up their Jews,” Lauder said.

However, the WJC president also praised those Ukrainians who resisted the Nazi regime and sheltered Jews. “There were Ukrainians that risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbors.”

Lauder went on to say: “We remember the dead. But, we are Jewish, and so we will always look forward and hope for better times.” He highlighted the Jewish revival Ukraine underwent in recent years, which he called a miracle, and said: “We are here in Kiev for one more important reason: We are here to celebrate the rebirth of a strong Jewish community here in Ukraine. This rebirth is nothing short of a miracle.”

Other speakers at the dinner included WJC Vice Presidents Boris Fuchsmann (co-president of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine), Andrey Adamovskiy (co-president of the Vaad of Ukraine) and Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich (chief rabbi of Ukraine) as well as Bishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, James C. Temerty (chairman of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter, UJE) and Berel Rodal (chairman of the UJE Advisory Board).

On behalf of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter and the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Medal was presented to the Ukrainian scholar, dissident, social activist Ivan Dzyuba.

Lauder opened the dinner with a moment of silence for former Israeli president Shimon Peres, and announced that he would be cutting short his visit to Ukraine to fly to Israel for the funeral.

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