5 things to know about Jewish President of Ukraine


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the Western Wall in Jerusalems Old City on January 23 2020 Shlomi Cohen Flash90
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, tours at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem’s Old City on January 23, 2020. Photo by Flash90

Here are 5 things you should know about Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, the young, funny,  brave Jewish man who has captured the world’s attention by resisting one of the top military power in the world, Russia.

1. He had an “ordinary Soviet Jewish upbringing.” Zelensky told The Times of Israel in early 2020, on the eve of visiting Israel to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, that his family was typical of Soviet Jews in the 1980s when he was growing up.

2. He grew up in what was once known as the “Pale of Settlement.” Like much of Ukraine, Zelensky’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih is located in the only region of the Russian Empire where Jews were permitted to live. The area, known as the Pale of Settlement, was formed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries after the Russian government barred Jews from living elsewhere under its supervision. Pogroms, or organized attacks against Jewish communities, originated in the Pale of Settlement and terrorized the Jews living there for generations.

3. As with most Ukrainian Jews, the Holocaust is part of his story. Zelensky has said that his great-grandfather and three of his grandfather’s brothers died as a result of the Nazi invasion of Ukrainian territory. His grandfather and his grandfather’s brothers took up arms against the Nazis in the Red Army; his grandfather was the only one to survive. He did not specify whether they died in combat or in the extended massacre of more than 1 million Ukrainian Jews that the Nazis carried out, often with local collaboration. His grandmother, he has said, survived because she left Kryvyi Rih for Kazakhstan; almost all of the Jews who remained were murdered. A Holocaust memorial not far from his parents’ home in Kryvyi Rih was defaced in January 2020.

4. He says being Jewish is a small part of his identity. Zelensky rarely discusses his Jewish identity publicly, and by all accounts it did not form a prominent part of his campaign, even for his detractors. Asked about his Jewishness by the French Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Levi in early 2019, Zelensky declined to explore it at length, Levy wrote when the interview appeared in the French newspaper Le Point. “The fact that I am Jewish barely makes 20 in my long list of faults,” he told Levi.

5. He has credited his Jewish parents with giving him his moral compass. Zelensky’s father, Oleksander, is a mathematician who heads a university computer science department; his mother Rimma was an engineer for many years. He said in a 2018 interview, shortly before officially running for president, that because of them, he is unable to accept lies. “I always react painfully to lies,” he said. “This is the main feature that my parents gave me.”

Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Russian President Vladimir Putin

illustrative: Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, on October 22, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recently met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin to mediate a resolution to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has recently met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin to mediate a resolution to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Hebrew-language media reports said Bennett also spoke with Putin about the safety of Ukraine’s Jewish communities, and that the meeting touched on the state of nuclear talks with Iran as well.

Ahead of the trip, Bennett had spoken by telephone repeatedly with both Putin and Zelensky — who is Jewish, has family in Israel and has visited the country many times.

Source: The Times Of Israel


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