CONTINUING REACTION TO "60 MINUTES" REPORT
Rabbi Yaakov Bleich's statement: Jewish community is flourishing
Published below is the statement released by Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, chief rabbi of Kyyiv and Ukraine, regarding the "60 Minutes" broadcast "The Ugly Face of Freedom." Rabbi Bleich was among those interviewed in the segment. His statement was presented to CBS officials on October 31 by a delegation of Ukrainian Americans.
Having viewed the segment of the CBS "60 Minutes" broadcast titled "The Ugly Face of Freedom," I would like to make the following statement. Without minimizing the danger of the extreme nationalist parties such as UNA/UNSO who proclaim "Ukraine for Ukrainians," I feel that the broadcast did not convey the true state of affairs in Ukraine. I also would like to state unequivocally that my words were quoted out of the context that they were said.
Credit should be given where credit is due. The present government of Ukraine, continuing the policies of the previous government, has an excellent record in human rights, respecting the rights of national minorities in deeds and actions and not only on paper. It has been noted that Ukraine has the best record on human rights of all former Soviet republics.
Former President Leonid Kravchuk has publicly apologized for the crimes of those Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazis in the persecution and killing of Ukrainian Jews during World War II. A responsible researcher has indicated that over 100,000 Ukrainians actively collaborated with the Nazis, however they were a small minority of the populace. The Ukrainian people should not be blamed collectively for the sins of few.
I feel that it would be appropriate for the present government of Ukraine to publicly denounce anti-Semitism and any other form of bigotry. This will prove that the government fully endorses the laws on national minorities. Experience teaches us that these same forces of anti-Semitism are also against democracy, human rights, liberalism, and a Europe unified on the basis of these beliefs. It is on these basic principles that democratic Ukraine stands.
In conclusion, as an American citizen living in Ukraine for five years, having witnessed Ukraine's transition from the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic to a modern democracy, I must state "the beautiful face of freedom" in Ukraine is a lot more predominant than the ugly one. I feel that the CBS broadcast was unbalanced, since it focused on a very small minority, ignoring the majority and the positive achievements of Ukraine in its three years of independence.
The revitalization of the Jewish community in Ukraine, which has become the strongest and most flourishing Jewish community in the former Soviet Union, is but one example of the bright side of freedom and democracy in modern Ukraine.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, November 6, 1994, No. 45, Vol. LXII
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