By COLlive reporter
Volodymyr Borysovych Groysman has made history this week as the first Jewish person to hold the title of Prime Minister of Ukraine, as well as the youngest one in the country’s history.
The 38-year-old politician was voted in to replace Arseniy Yatsenyuk after public dissatisfaction and allegations of corruption surrounding the current administration.
Groysman was born in Vinnytsia into a Jewish family in 1978. He worked for a small private business and was later elected as mayor of the city. An ally of Petro Poroshenko, he was elected Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada parliament in 2014.
Groysman is only the 4th Jewish person in the world currently holding the title Prime Minister. Others are Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, John Key of New Zealand and Mike Eman of Aruba.
Vinnytsia’s Chief Rabbi Shaul Horowitz, a Chabad Shliach, has grown close to Groysman since his mayoral stint and they remain personal friends.
“He is a grandson of Holocaust survivors,” the rabbi told COLlive.com. “His grandfather and grandmother lived in a nearby Jewish village and were taken by the Nazis to be shot. Miraculously, they fell onto the pile of corps and faked their death. That’s how they were saved.”
“Volodymyr never hid his Judaism,” the rabbi added. “He puts on Tefillin every morning in his office, regularly attends communal Jewish life and honors the events we hold with his presence.”
“He is a very talented person,” Horowitz added. “We pray and hope that Hashem will be at his side and that he succeeds in his important position. His election shows that every Jew can reach such a position.”
Rabbi Levi Matusof from Paris, an activist for Jewish causes in the European institutions, has met Groysman on several occasions during his quick rise to power.
“He is a very humble and a man of action,” Matusof told COLlive.com. “When we met before the holiday of Purim last year, we spoke about his role as a ‘Mordechai’ for Ukraine and for the Jewish people.”
On Jan. 27, International Holocaust Memorial Day, when Groysman chaired the parliament, he asked lawmakers to stand for a minute’s silence in honor of the victims of the Jewish genocide.
It was the first time such a gesture took place in parliament, JTA reported.
“Unlike many who either try to hide their Judaism or just not talk about it, Groysman is a warm and open Jew because he’s part of a new generation in a new country,” Rabbi Horowitz said.