By Daliah Kurtzweil, Dnepropetrovsk
What do the former president of Georgia, the Foreign Ministers of European countries and senior American diplomats have in common?
All these distinguished individuals recently visited Dnepropetrovsk’s Jewish community and met with Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki, the Chief Rabbi and Shliach to Dnepropetrovsk and its surroundings.
The American Special Envoy Mr. Clifford George Bond; the British Ambassador, Mr. Simon Smith; Mr. Treigerman, the Advisor to the Governor of Dnepropetrovsk and others visited recently as well.
The delegations arrived and were impressed with the young, lively and growing community. During the visits, the groups offered solutions to the issues troubling the citizens coping with the unstable situation in the country. What they observed during their stay surprised some of the guests, when they saw that life was going on as normal in the city, and that Dnepropetrovsk is able to welcome refugees from the east of the country and from the Crimea.
Mr. Michael Sa’akashvili, President of Georgia between 2004 and 2013, was the guest of Mr. Igor Kolomoisky, the Provincial Governor. The former president shared his experience in handling the country at the time of the overthrow of the government.
During his visit to the Jewish Museum, Mr. Sa’akashvili expressed his opinion that stability in the community contributes to the stability of local government. His meeting with Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki also included representatives of the Jewish community.
Three days later, Dnepropetrovsk hosted Mr. Detlib Walter, the German Consul in Ukraine. Mr. Walter visited the “Menorah” Jewish Center, met with Rabbi Kaminezki and spent quite some time visiting the Jewish Museum, where he learned about the Jewish history of Ukraine, focusing on the Holocaust.
Mr. Ira Forman, the United States Department of State representative on the subject of world anti-Semitism, arrived from the United States to hear the opinion of Rabbi Kaminezki on anti-Semitism and racial hatred in the Ukraine.
Rabbi Kaminezki noted that the Ukrainian government encourages people of different cultures and religions to live in the country and works to eradicate anti-Semitism before it’s created. But, he added, there is still no law that outlaws xenophobia, and anti-Semitic acts are labeled as hooliganism and not as nationalistic crimes.
The British Ambassador, Mr. Simon Smith and the German Ambassador Christos Weil arrived in the city for a memorial ceremony in the nearby town, Novomoskovsk.
The visit culminated with a tour of the “Menorah” Center. Rabbi Kamenezki noted that stability is evident throughout the city of Dnepropetrovsk and that life is carrying on as usual. He said that the situation in the country has led to unity, not division or anti-Semitism.
The Advisor to the Governor of Dnepropetrovsk, Mr. Boris Treigerman, thanked the representatives of the countries for their support for state independence of the Ukraine. The representatives promised to help with the issue of regional stability.
The visit ended with a tour of the Jewish Museum.
A few days later, the Czech Foreign Minister, Mr. Lubomir Zaorlik and his team visited the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community for the first time. At their meeting with Rabbi Kaminezki they heard from him briefly the history of the Jewish community and visited the Synagogue and the “Menorah” Center. Their visit also ended at the museum.
The next visit was that of Mr. Clifford George Bond, the Special Ambassador of the Government of the United States for the American aid program to Ukraine. Rabbi Kaminezki hosted Mr. Bond in his office. At their meeting the Rabbi spoke about the cooperation between the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community and the Jewish Boston communities, which was established years ago. Mr. Bond visited the women’s hospital that works with an American support project for women.
Mr. Bond noted the uniqueness of the city that is managing to handle the situation during these unstable times. The Rabbi agreed with the statement, noting that the Governor of the region, Mr. Kolomoisky, (who is Jewish) is widely supported by the community. Mr. Bond spoke about his mission to help the residents of the Ukraine.
The Foreign Ministers of Iceland and Latvia with their honored delegations were the following guests at the Jewish community. Mr. Adgers Rinkevich, the Foreign Minister of Latvia and Mr. Gunnar Braga Sveinsson, the Foreign Minister of Iceland, accompanied by an official diplomatic delegation, discussed with Rabbi Kaminezki the relationship between Dnepropetrovsk Region and Latvia and Iceland in many areas. Rabbi Kaminezki hosted them in his office and toured the Jewish Museum with them. Mr. Treigerman, the Advisor to the Governor of Dnepropetrovsk, joined them.
Another special visit was from Mrs. Wendy Sherman, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the USA. Mrs. Sherman is the most senior Jewish American in the American government. Ukraine is the birthplace of her parents and of her grandparents, and her visit there was a kind of “coming back home.” The head Shlucha to Dnepropetrovsk, Rebbetzin Chana Kaminezki, gave her a personal parcel with candles and Challot for Shabbat. Together they visited the Jewish community and spoke with representatives.
The community CEO, Mr. Zelig Brez, spoke about the establishment of the community and the results today. As part of her visit, Mrs. Sherman had a tour of the Jewish Museum. She was impressed by the nature of the community, which was characterized by its civilized, tolerant and democratic people. After the meeting, Mrs. Sherman expressed her intention to tell President Obama about this wonderful place and to share her impressions of the visit with him.