Jewish Observer
JEWISH UKRAINE
13/16
November 2001
5762 Kheshvan

SOME PECULIARITIES OF JEWISH RENAISSANCE
BORIS FELDMAN
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- You, Jews, are happy people, sighed an elderly woman in the trolley-bus looking at my somewhat bigger than an average nose

- You should feel pleased - you've got free of charge canteens, hold festive parties... You can even leave this place at any moment. As for us... - she turned away to the window with a wave.

- Happy? Probably, yes - thought I. And this is not because my wife brings home charitable fish.

Though, thanks at least for that for it is impossible to survive on a naked pension. But what miracles may happen in the world!

Some 15 years ago an abstract Abram Isaakovich looked with hatred into his Soviet passport with such an uncomfortable for a normal life nationality and such a queer patronymic name that to pronounce which, as bad words, was shameful.

Nowadays there are so many non-Jews who would like to exchange with Abram Isaakovich to get the right to leave the country.

It is sad, of course! It is particularly sad that the old people, who should have a quiet life in warmth and comfort, dream about such opportunity.

In this connection I recall one recent occasion. A poorly dressed elderly man entered the building of the Jewish community and said:

- I want to Israel!

- To want is not harmful, he got the answer, but in Israel there is not enough place even for Jews. The country is rather small.

- But I am a Jew! - answered the man.

- Have you got any document?

- How could my grandfather from a faraway village get it 100 years ago? I have no documents!

We are sorry!

- If I am not a Jew should I die of hunger then?! You do not have such right. You are people after all! - exclaimed the old man.

...How difficult it was to watch that scene!

Yes, we, Jews, comparing with others, after awful losses found ourselves somewhat privileged. But, God save other peoples to experience that...

Nowadays independent Ukraine gave us the rights equal to those of other nationalities. Still, why are we leaving this country? I cannot understand.

Who can explain? We abandon our dear graves, flats, sell our belongings almost for nothing and depart for an illusory happiness there where they don't understand our language, habits and rites, where explosions rumble, where even our co-religionists scornfully call us "Russians" due to mixed marriages, lard in food, negligence of our religion, inability to speak Jewish...

Nevertheless I know people, who were doing rather well here but yet joined the leavers. And what is here? More and more non-Jewish names appear in the titles of the Jewish TV-casts, on the pages of Jewish newspapers, in the lists of the pupils in a Jewish school. There are no Jews! They are succeeded by half-Jews, quarter-Jews, adopted children of Jewish parents... Though there are also old Jews. But they already don't know their language. The children at the national Jewish school also speak Russian. Yes, what an atrocity Hitler did!

All these telecasts and concerts by the invited ensembles consisting of nice Slav children do bring joy but, alas, do not attest to the renaissance of the national culture of the Jews remaining in Ukraine. The scientific educational center "Tkuma" ("Renaissance") tells in its editions about fascist atrocities in the past but it is not able to explain what the Jewish Renaissance should be like. However, there are, undoubtedly, changes for the better! One shouldn't be already ashamed of a long nose or protruding ears. We, the remaining part of those Jews who used to live in Ukraine, reside here to share our God's fate with the Ukrainians and Russians.

Nonetheless, we are envied for free fish! This fact, considering our bitter past, is dangerous...

Envy brings no good...

That's why I would like us, Jews, not to lock ourselves behind our flat doors, to make friends with our neighbours irrespective of their nationality, to establish friendliness among different communities, religious organisations, houses, neighbouring flats, kitchens and corridors. I would like us not to tear our children away from the common human culture, not to forbid them to attend museums that keep the Christian symbolism.

Until we are fully assimilated I would like us to master our native tongue Yiddish, spoken by our grandfathers and described by Sholom Aleikhem.

We ourselves, not the "Varangians" invited for money, should sing our songs, dance our dances at the Jewish concerts, as well as invite our non-Jewish friends and acquaintances to these concerts. We should not feel shy to acquaint our friends with our national customs and traditions.

I believe that we all, Jews and non-Jews, have got only one God, that we, the Jews, who live here and who have got the right to free fish and repatriation, - are in no way worse but also no better than other nations!

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